REVELATION - CHAPTER 13
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
13:1. “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.”
Some manuscripts read, “And he stood upon the sand,” but it seems more likely that the KJ translation is correct.
The observer of course is John, and since this passage is clearly the NT counterpart of Dan 7:7, the sea, the beast, the heads, and the horns are all symbolic. The sea represents the restless rebellious sea of humanity (Isa 57:20); the beast is the fourth world empire of Daniel’s vision, i.e., Rome; and since the kingdom and its ruler are often viewed in Scripture as being synonymous, the symbol applies also to the head of that kingdom or empire, the final great world ruler also described as the beast.
Many and varied meanings have been assigned to the seven heads, but the most satisfactory seems to be that which takes them to represent the seven forms of government associated with the Roman empire, i.e., kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, emperors, and the seventh, that form which will be employed during the reign of the beast. The ten horns, corresponding to the ten toes of the image described in Daniel 2, portray the final form of Gentile world power (a ten kingdom coalition of nations) that will dominate the world in the Tribulation, and which will be destroyed by Christ at His second advent. It will consist of a ten-kingdom confederation, portrayed here as a seven-headed, ten-horned beast, ruled by one who is himself called the beast.
The word beast in Revelation 4 means simply living creature; but here it means a wild beast. The emperor and the empire ruling the world in the Tribulation, will have all the characteristics of the savage beasts, which in Daniel 7, portray the preceding forms of that empire. The nondescript beast, there used to portray the fourth empire, combined the characteristics of its predecessors, the lion (Babylon), the bear (Persia), and the leopard (Greece). These beasts are all savage, and Rome, the empire that consolidated what was once Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, exhibited in itself and in most of its rulers, a beast-like savagery. In its revived final form, the savagery will be directed, as in the past, by Satan, but in the Tribulation age by a Satan writhing in the fury of a frustration become desperate, knowing that he has only a short time left to work.
The diabolical madness of Nero gives an idea of what the reign of the beast may be like, though there is no reason whatever for believing, as some do, that the final great world ruler will be Nero resurrected. (There will be no resurrection of the unbelieving dead until the end of the world, nor is there anything in Scripture to indicate that even resurrected believers will return to an earthly state).
In Re 12:3 the great red dragon (Satan) is portrayed as having seven heads and ten horns; and here in Re 13:1 the beast out of the sea has seven heads and ten horns. It is evident that this final world ruler is so completely controlled by Satan that it is as if the two were one; and when we see joined with them the beast out of the earth, verse 11, we are looking upon the trinity of evil which is the diabolic travesty of the divine trinity. The relationship between Satan and this evil ruler will be the duplicate of that which exists between the Father and the Son, Jn 14:9, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father....” He who sees the Tribulation age beast ruler will be looking on the personification of Satan.
The reason why the crowns are seen upon the seven heads in chapter 12, but upon the ten horns here in chapter 13, is that the former represent Satan, the power behind the governmental power, while the latter represent the men who will be the visible representatives of that Satanic power.
“And upon his heads the name of blasphemy.” Blasphemy in the present context, is Satan’s arrogation of God’s right to govern the kingdoms of earth. Governmental power is ordained of God for man’s good, but Satan uses it for man’s destruction.
13:2. “And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
In Daniel’s vision the leopard represented Greece; the bear, Medo-Persia; and the lion, Babylon. Just as Rome of the past embodied all that had been Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, so will Rome, revived in the Tribulation as a ten-kingdom confederation, embody all that was ancient Rome. The leopard-like body represents the grace, culture and learning of Greece that will be exhibited by Rome revived. The bear is a fitting symbol of the Medo-Persia that strode across the ancient world, ruthlessly crushing all opposition under its feet. In the Tribulation era, Rome revived will fulfill the type of the bear, the beast emperor being enabled by Satan, and permitted by God, to foist himself upon an unbelieving world as Christ returned to reign, crushing his foes beneath His feet.
And the beast has the mouth of the Babylonian lion. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was an absolute monarch. By his word alone men lived or died, as it is written, “... all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive; and whom, he would he set up; and whom he would he put down” (Dan 5:19). That same power will be exercised again on the Tribulation-age earth by the final beast emperor, the personification of “Satan the raging lion,” masquerading as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” For all the outward display of greatness, however, this beast is but a man, a thing of clay in the hand of his diabolic master, as was Judas, who having served Satan’s purpose, was then cast aside to go and hang himself. Judas, and the beast, and all who serve the destroyer, whether as a traitorous disciple, or head of a mighty empire, have the same reward - the eternal torment of the lake of fire. And as it is with the servant, so will it be with the master: he too will be consigned eternally to that same awful place of torment in unquenchable fire.
“... his power ... his seat ... great authority.” The beast’s power comes, by God’s permission of course, from Satan, whose power appears to be second only to that of God. But the powers are not to be compared. Satan’s is lent and limited: God’s is inherent, and limitless both as to time and degree.
“... his seat,” (more correctly, his throne) is also given by Satan, but again its worthlessness is apparent. Satan himself has been cast down by God from a throne higher than the most magnificent earth has ever seen. What value, then, has a throne, or any gift of Satan? He who has been deposed by the God of earth and heaven, has nothing to bestow save a few worthless baubles the true value of which the recipients will learn only when it is too late.
13:3. “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.”
If we are correct in interpreting the seven heads as representing the seven forms of government associated with the Roman empire, then the mortally wounded head must be the sixth, the imperial, which ended (died) when the empire in Europe fell in 476 A.D.
The continuation of the eastern half as the Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople, until the fifteenth century, is outside the scope of prophecy, and is therefore irrevelant.
Verse 14 of this same chapter states that the wound was caused by a sword, further confirmation, it would seem, that it was the sixth head, the imperial form of government, that was smitten by the sword of the barbarians who destroyed the empire, for it is to be noted that the death of the head implies also the death of the body; but there was no destruction of the Roman empire when earlier forms of government were replaced by later ones. The empire “died” only when the imperial form of government died in 476 A.D.
The words, “as it were” indicate that the wound only appeared to be mortal. Scripture leaves no doubt that the old Roman empire is to be revived as a ten kingdom coalition in the latter days.
The beast, the Roman empire, in its long life had been under the control of a total of six successive “heads” (forms of government), and in 476 A.D. when it received its seeming death wound, it was under the control of the sixth head (the imperial form of government). It was that sixth “head” that received the sword-wound that seemed to be mortal.
But the wound has been almost healed. The empire is rising up again as a confederacy of ten nations, as foretold in Scripture, and the form of government employed by the Satanically-empowered human beast who will direct the affairs of the beast-empire, will be the seventh “head.” No intelligent Bible reader can survey the European scene today without being aware that out of that flux will emerge the final beast-empire, the colossus that was Rome, and that appeared to “die” in 476 A.D.
“... and all the world wondered after the beast.” This mighty coalition of nations, forming an empire described by God as a beast, and headed up by a man whom God also describes as a beast, will evoke the wonder of the whole world. And well it might! It will be the most terrible power ever to rule the earth, and its beast ruler the most powerful man the earth will have ever seen.
13:4. “And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?”
The men of earth who refuse to worship the true God, will gladly worship both the dragon (Satan), and the beast (the human head of the revived Roman empire) in the Tribulation, as foretold by the Lord Himself, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (Jn 5:43). Paul, in 2 Th 2 gives similar warning, “Let no man deceive you ... that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself ... so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” And Daniel also warned that this evil king would, “exalt himself ... above every God, and ... against the God of gods.... Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers ... for he shall magnify himself above all” (Dan 11:36-37).
In connection with the worship of the dragon, it is highly unlikely that men will actually fall before the very person of Satan, for 1 Co 10:20 makes it clear that to bow to an idol is indirectly to worship Satan, as it is written, “... the Gentiles sacrifice ... to devils, and not to God.” The worship therefore of this man, the beast, will be indirectly the worship of Satan himself. The context makes it clear that it is not the empire, but the man, the emperor, who is worshiped.
“Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” confirm that it is the man, the beast, to whom worship will be addressed, though in reality it will be Satan who is worshiped.
13:5. “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.”
That Daniel, in chapter seven, is describing the same one whom John saw, is clearly shown in the language of both passages, they are almost identical. Both prophets describe his boastful blasphemy, while emphasizing that his power is for only three and a half years.
“... and power was given unto him....” Great as is Satan’s power and that of the beast whom he energizes, it is still only derived power lent by God for the outworking of His own purposes. He is the One Who imposes the limit of three and a half years as the time for the display of this borrowed, and misused might.
13:6. “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.”
Blasphemy here means injurious speaking. In view of 2 Th 2:3-4, “... that man of sin ... the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God,” it would appear that the beast’s blasphemy will include the complete arrogation of divinity. All that rightly belongs to God he will take to himself, as his evil spiritual master has attempted to do.
The eleventh horn of Dan 7:8 is synonymous with the beast who rules the beast empire in the Tribulation, and Daniel adds what John here omits, “The beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame” (Dan 7:11).
An interesting comparison between Christ and the beast presents itself at this point. The Church is called “the body” of Christ, He of course being the Head of that body. The end of the Church is to be lifted up from earth to an eternal union of bliss with her Head in heaven. Those who constitute the empire of the beast might well be viewed as the body, of which he is the head. The end of the empire will be to be plunged down to perdition in an eternal union of torment in the lake of fire with her fallen head. Christ came down from heaven, and lifts His followers up there. The beast comes up out of the pit, and drags his followers down there.
13:7. “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”
Again, Daniel adds a detail omitted by John. From Dan 7:25 we learn that the power given him against the saints is of short duration, only three and a half years, but for that brief period the extent of his power will be vast, covering apparently the whole world.
13:8. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
This divides the population of earth into two great classes - those who worship the beast (and, through him, Satan), and those whose names are written in the book of life. This latter category includes the redeemed of all the ages, God’s foreknowledge enabling Him to inscribe those names in the book of life long before any of them existed. This has led some to conclude, mistakenly, that each man’s fate is arbitrarily foreordained, some being predestinated to eternal life, and the rest to eternal torment - a thesis refuted by Scripture, as two verses alone clearly demonstrate, “The Lord ... is longsuffering ... not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pe 3:9). “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (Jn 5:40). Ro 8:28-29 reveals the same truth very clearly, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose, for whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate (not to be saved, but) to be conformed to the image of his Son.” No one is predestinated to be saved, but once the sinner trusts in Christ as Savior, he is predestinated to be conformed to Christ’s image. God calls men through the Gospel, and while leaving each man to yield a freewill response to that call, still knows what the choice will be. Those who accept Christ as Savior, place themselves in the category of God’s elect, foreknown from before the foundation of the world, and in regard to them it is predestinated that they will be conformed to Christ’s image. By a freewill choice of Christ as Savior, they become God’s elect, but having placed themselves in that category, they are now predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ.
The choice of death instead of life, by those whose names are not in the book of life, is also foreknown, but not predestinated. They will worship the beast.
(In response to the question, What of those who never hear the Gospel, and who therefore have no opportunity to make a choice? the explanation appears to be that God, foreknowing that their response would be negative, simply chooses in His sovereignty not to offer a choice, just as in His sovereignty He does present a choice to some, even though He foreknows that His offer of salvation will be rejected). The foregoing may explain why some unbelievers will be preserved from worshiping the beast: foreknown by God as those who will become believers, they will be preserved by God’s grace from that idolatrous worship even before their conversion occurs.
“... the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” tells something of the love of God. When the foundation of the earth was laid (not to be confused with the re-making of the earth in the six days of Genesis 1), He Who foreknew man’s sin, foreordained the death of His only Son to make atonement for that sin.
13:9. “If any man have an ear, let him hear.”
As God sets before men the knowledge of the future, He commands them to listen. The wise will give heed to His warnings, the foolish will ignore them and perish.
13:10. “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints:”
While the beast will be permitted for a little while to imprison and slay the saints, God provides a firm foundation for the patience and faith of His own. The captivity into which the beast may bring them will last only a little while. His own imprisonment in the lake of fire will be for ever. The return of Christ in power and glory, that will end the imprisonment of His saints, will begin that of the beast, and of Satan.
The Tribulation-age saints may be slain by the sword of the beast, a sword that can do no more than separate soul and body, sending the former into Christ’s presence, and the latter into the grave, from which He, in a little while will raise it in glory and power to eternal life. The beast on, the other hand, will be “cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Re 19:20) from which there will never be a resurrection.
Their Lord Himself has been imprisoned and slain, but from the resurrection side of death, with the keys of hell and death securely held in His hand, He encourages the patience, and justifies the faith of His sorely beleaguered saints. It is only for a little while, and then the night of mourning will give place to the morning of joy and laughter, as it is written, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps 30:5). And the words with which He comforts His own of the Tribulation age are the same with which He comforts His own today. It is only for a little while. “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Re 22:12).
13:11. “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth: and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.”
Having viewed the sea, from which the first beast emerged, as being symbolic of the Gentile nations, consistent interpretation requires us to take the earth as being also symbolic, and as noted already, when used symbolically, it represents the nation of Israel. This second beast, then, it would seem, is a Jew.
“... and he had two horns.” The horn is the Scriptural symbol of power, particularly the power of a king or other ruler. The two horns therefore indicate a dual power, and since a good deal of emphasis is laid upon this beast’s activity in the realm of religion, the reference appears to be to a power that is both religious and political. Everything points to his being Israel’s leader both politically and religiously in the Tribulation. His success in persuading unbelieving Israel to worship the first beast appears to confirm that he is a Jew in a position of supreme authority in Israel (but subject to the control of the first beast), for it is difficult to believe that the Jews would follow the leadership of a Gentile, particularly in the sphere of religion.
“... like a lamb,” is significant, for it indicates an attitude of meekness which will be used to disguise the diabolic nature of his activity. Because of his being “like a lamb” many view him as being the Antichrist. He will present the lamb-like meekness that characterized the Lord during His earthly ministry. As He led men to worship the Father, so in the Tribulation will this Jewish counterfeit of the Messiah lead unbelieving Jews to worship the first beast, the ruler of the revived Roman Empire, a worship which will be, of course, the worship of Satan.
Much controversy has centered around whether the Antichrist is the beast from the sea, or this beast from the earth. The question however, is relatively unimportant, involving only terminology, for both are anti-Christ in that everything they do is against Christ. Contention would be avoided by following the Biblical pattern which refers to the first as simply “the beast,” and the second as, “the false prophet” (Re 19:20), or by the use of terms such as, “the first beast” and “the second beast,” or, “the beast from the sea,” and “the beast from the earth.”
One thing must be obvious to even the casual reader: in these three - Satan, the beast, and the false prophet - we have a trinity of evil opposed to the divine Trinity: Satan standing opposite the Father; the first beast, opposite Christ; and the second beast, opposite the Holy Spirit.
In spite of his attempt to present himself in a meek, lamb-like guise, this second beast cannot conceal his true character: “he spake as a dragon.” Just as those who belong to God, manifest by their speech, that His nature is in them, so this evil ruler will manifest by his speech that his nature is devilish, and that he belongs to Satan.
The Holy Spirit leads men to Christ, and through Him, to the Father in whose love they will rest eternally, but this false prophet will lead men to the first beast, and through him, to Satan, whose torment they will share eternally.
13:12. “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”
This false prophet will induce unbelieving Jews to worship the Roman beast, but believing Jews, and Gentiles, will be willing to die rather than bow to the man who will be ruling the world for Satan in the Tribulation.
“... whose deadly wound was healed.” In our study of verse 3 we noted that the “deadly wound” refers to the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D., and that the healing of that deadly wound refers to the revival of the Roman Empire as a ten-kingdom coalition of nations in the Tribulation. We have noted also, however, that God appears to view the Empire and its ruler as being one and the same, the man being but the human representative of the political entity, so that the death of the one implies also the death of the other.
As was noted in our study of chapter 11, however, John the baptist is to be viewed as being the same as Elijah (see Mt 11:14; 17:10-13); and the two witnesses of chapter 11, as Moses and Elijah (not Moses and Elijah resurrected, but two men witnessing in the same power and spirit as those two prophets). So is it also with the Roman emperor who will rule in the Tribulation: he will not be a resurrected man, but rather, one ruling in the same power and spirit as all former Roman emperors. As in the case of Elijah and John, and Moses and the two witnesses, in the purposes of God, their individual identities are made subservient to their office; so also with the Roman emperors: whether Julius Caesar, Nero, Constantine, or the Tribulation emperor, individual identity is absorbed in the office, so that all the Roman emperors are viewed by God simply as one, i.e., as head of the Roman Empire.
In the wounding of the head (the governmental form) in 476 AD, there was also the “wounding” as it were, of the man who at that time was the human representative of the Empire. Since the man who will head the final form of that once wounded but recovered empire is, like Elijah, John, and the two witnesses who will represent the Holy Spirit in the Tribulation, simply the human representative of the evil spirit that empowered all of his predecessors, he too can be regarded as having been wounded and then restored.
The false prophet will induce unbelieving Israel to worship, not the beast which is the empire, but the human beast who will be the representative of that empire.
13:13. “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.”
In 2 Thes 2:9 we read that signs and lying wonders will lead unbelievers to worship the Roman beast-emperor in the Tribulation, and here we learn that the false prophet will be the human instrument producing those signs and wonders by the power of Satan, his being the puppet of the Roman emperor, making it the same as though the emperor himself performed them.
His calling down fire upon the earth recalls the ability of Elijah to do the same (1 Ki 18:36-39; 2 Ki 1:9-12). Elijah’s, power however, came from God; that of the false prophet will come from Satan, but only by God’s permission. And while an unbelieving world, deceived and blinded, will stand awe-struck at this display of Satanic power, believers of the Tribulation age will be enabled to look beyond them to the day when Satan, the beast, and the false prophet, together with all their dupes, will be cast into the eternal torment of that very same element, fire.
13:14. “And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth, by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by the sword, and did live.”
Having, by means of these miracles, convinced the “earthdwellers,” i.e., unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, that he possesses miraculous power, he will then proceed to use his influence to have them make an image in the likeness of the political ruler, “the beast which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” There can be little doubt that this is what is also referred to in 2 Thes 2:3-9.
We have already discussed the fact that the empire and the emperor are often spoken of synonymously. In verse three it was the head, the form of government, that received the deadly wound, while in verse twelve it appears to be the empire itself that was wounded, and now in verse fourteen it is the beast, the emperor, who is said to have received the wound. It is obvious that God views the three - the empire, the form of government, and the human rulers - as being virtually the same. When we remember that all three are simply the visible representation of Satan’s power, we recognize how thoroughly justified the synonym is.
The incident described here is another proof that history furnishes many miniatures of the last great drama. In Dan 3, for example, we read of Nebuchadnezzar making an image which he compelled men to worship. His kingdom, Babylon, was the first of the beast empires, which developed through Persia, and then Greece, to become the Roman Empire of the past, and, by its revival, the ten kingdom confederation which will be its final form in the Tribulation. As it was with the first stage, so will it be with the last: an image will again be set up, and worship of the image again compelled under threat of death. The desecration of the temple, and the idolatrous worship compelled by Antiochus, are also foreshadowings of what will be in the Tribulation.
As has been noted in other studies, the same pattern is found in connection with the treaty which began the seventy “weeks” (seventy sevens of years, i.e., 490 years) in which, it was revealed to Daniel, that God’s program would be completed for the blessing of Israel and the whole earth. As the first of those “weeks” began with Artaxerxes’ signing the edict that ended Israel’s Babylonian captivity, so will the last “week” (the seven years of the Tribulation era) also begin with the signing of a treaty between Israel and the human head of the final from of Gentile power, the Roman Empire revived.
Today we cannot tell the date of the Lord’s return either to rapture the Church, or to establish His millennial kingdom, but after the Rapture, the date of His return to inaugurate the kingdom will be easy to calculate. It will be seven prophetic years, of 360 days each, from the day when the beast signs the treaty with Israel, which God calls their covenant with hell.
Those living when that treaty is signed, will be able to count forward seven years of 360 days each, and know with absolute certainty that that will be the day when Christ will return in power and glory to end the Tribulation, judge the nations, and establish His millennial kingdom. The reason why that date can’t be calculated today is because the date when the beast will sign the seven year treaty with Israel is as yet unknown.
13:15. “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”
It is generally agreed that breath is the more accurate translation of the word here rendered life. Since God alone has the power to give life, it is apparent that this beast out of the earth gives to the image only the similitude of life; nor, in the light of modern technology, is it difficult to imagine his ability to make the image appear to speak. The deception will apparently be so complete that when the voice of the image orders the death of those who refuse to worship it, the order will be obeyed.
These Tribulation-age martyrs, however, will lay down their physical lives for only a little while. The beast’s power is limited to three and a half years. Then those lives, laid down for the Lord Who laid down His Own life for the redemption of men’s souls, will be raised again when He returns in power and glory. And as it was with the Lord, so will it be with these faithful ones. As His resurrection body is glorious and spiritual, not physical, so will theirs also be, “For our conversation (manner of life) is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who will change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body....” (Ph’p 3:20-21); see also 1 Co 15.
13:16. “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads.”
13:17. “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
Some, taking the language to be symbolic, assume that what is being said here is that the Beast will have complete control over all employment, the hand and head being taken to represent manual and intellectual employment respectively. Whether literal or symbolic, there can be little question that the truth being declared here is that employment will be denied those who refuse to receive the mark of the beast.
In this present day when virtually every individual is identified by a Social Security number, and when it is becoming more common to pay for everything by means of credit cards, it isn’t difficult to see credit cards being replaced with a number imprinted (possibly by laser and made visible under ultra-violet light) on each individual’s hand, a method which would do much to eliminate the increasing fraud connected with credit cards. But with the imprinting of such a number being contingent on the individual’s being willing to worship the beast, it isn’t difficult to see how those refusing to offer that worship would be denied all opportunity to work or to buy or sell. It requires little imagination to see what hardship this would inflict on those loyal to God.
13:18. “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”
2 Thes 2:7-8 makes it clear that this wicked individual will not be revealed until the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit) is taken out of the way, as it is written, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth (hinders or restrains sin) will let (hinder, restrain) until He be taken out of the way. Then shall that Wicked (one) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”
We might take a moment here to note that the Church appears to be the instrument used by the Holy Spirit to retrain the full outbreaking of sin during this present age. The rapture of the Church, her removal from earth to heaven, will end that restraint, the removal of His instrument being viewed as removal of the Holy Spirit Himself. This is not to be construed, however, as the end of His activity on earth. Only His work of restraining sin will cease. That all His other activities will continue is self-evident, for in the Tribulation age, as in every other, His striving, and His convicting of sin will be essential for conversion, and men will be converted in the Tribulation.
During this present age therefore, speculation as to the identity of this wicked one is futile. As the date of the Lord’s return (both to rapture the Church, and to establish His kingdom), is not to be revealed during this present age, neither is the identity of this man of sin. Those revelations are reserved for the Tribulation era.
Attempts to decipher the significance of the number 666 are equally futile, except to recognize that since six is the Biblical number of man and of sin, this combination of sixes points to one who will be the personification of evil.