The Dragon – attempted to assert authority over heaven and earth, trying to take the place of God himself. Is not content to work alone, amasses all the resources he possibly can to achieve his objective. Important to remember that John presents Satan as seen through “redeemed” eyes. Satan does deceive the lost, would deceive the elect if possible (Matt. 24:24). Consequently, world does not see him as he is but as he presents himself; believers see through deception, recognize for who he really is. Can do so because of Revelation, both Revelation-the-book and revelation-the-Bible, describing the reality so we won’t be deceived; also due to God’s gracious enabling of believers to understand spiritual truths, not just about spiritual good but spiritual evils also.
Think how understanding Bible in general, Revelation in particular, changes our perspective on world history. If there’s cosmic war going on, battle for kingdom supremacy, means we look at movements of nations, rise and fall of empires, nature of human governments differently. Understand spiritual motivations behind political and cultural maneuvers, direct our responses to a right end – salvation greatest need, then political and cultural change will follow. Conflict will not end until the end, when Christ has final victory and establishes His “one world order”.
Chapter 12 ends with the dragon going to make war with the rest of the woman’s offspring – that’s us, and all the saints of this age. Don’t forget, God has bound Satan, placed limits on his sphere of operation and the damage he can do on both saints and the lost (Rev. 9:4-5). Graphic example of restraints, even in previous age: three Hebrew men who refused to worship image, thrown into furnace, divinely protected from harm.
In text, dragon continues attempts to establish his kingdom by staging a mock creation, calling up the Beast from the sea. The Beast – a counterfeit of Christ, another composite figure fulfilling imagery found in Dan. 7:1-8, soon to be followed by the second beast or False Prophet, a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit and third in unholy Trinity.
A. description and deception v.1-4
four individual beasts from Daniel’s vision combined into one monster. Resembles the dragon (seven heads, ten horns, crowns), empowered by the dragon. Daniel’s beasts explained as signifying various idolatrous earthly kingdoms, political powers, with hints of the Satanic power behind the scenes. John’s Beast thus represents a summation of civil government perverted from purpose for which God instituted it: government was established to encourage righteous and restrain wicked (Rom. 13:3-4), Beast does just the opposite. Encourages wickedness and terrorizes the righteous in direct opposition to God.
• The Beast is an image of Satan, whom Satan brought forth (Rev. 13:1), just as Christ is the exact image of God, begotten by the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; Ps. 2:7).
• The Beast has ten crowns, while Christ has many crowns (Rev. 19:12).
• The Beast has blasphemous names written on him, while Christ has worthy names (Rev. 19:12).
• The Dragon gave the Beast his power and his throne and great authority (Rev. 13:2), just as Christ has power (Rev. 5:12-13) and throne (Rev. 3:21) and authority (Rev. 12:10) from the Father (John 5:21-23).
•The Beast has a fatal wound, counterfeiting Christ’s resurrection (Rev. 13:3). The Beast’s healing is one of the principal features that attracts followers, just as the resurrection of Christ is one of the principal points of evangelistic proclamation. Wound is indeed fatal although Beast can temporarily “pretend” it isn’t.
• Worship is directed both to the Dragon and the Beast, just as Christians worship both the Father and the Son (John 5:23).
• The Beast attracts the worship of the whole world (Rev. 13:3), just as Christ is to be worshipped universally.
• The Beast utters blasphemies, while Christ utters the praises of God (Heb. 2:12).
• The Beast makes war against the saints, while Christ makes war against the Beast (Rev. 19:11-21). The song of praise to the Beast in Rev. 13:4 counterfeits the song to God the warrior in Exod. 15:11. The striking juxtaposition of Christ and the Beast in Rev. 19:11-21 shows that these two are the two main warriors in the battle. Christ is the divine warrior, fulfilling the imagery of Exod. 15:3; Isa. 59:16-18; 63:1-6; Hab. 3:3-15; Zech. 9:13-15; 14:1-5. The Beast is the unholy, counterfeit warrior, fulfilling the imagery of Dan. 7:1-8. (Poythress)
B. nature and extent of influence v.5-8
given power to deceive and to rule. Beast’s power is exercised verbally and visually – by influence of words to deceive and persuade, visual aids to validate deceptive and blasphemous words. His power extends throughout the last half of Daniel’s 70th week, this present age, but will end at the end of the age when Christ returns. No nation or group of people or government is immune, authority is fully global (v.7); don’t forget, God’s people are fully global as well (Rev. 5:9, 7:9).
Through temporal authority of his agents, Beast wages war against the saints and in some cases can prevail against them. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Voice of the Martyrs publications, the Third Reich, Stalin’s gulags all bear witness to those who have lost their lives for the Gospel. However,… the Beast does not have ability to deceive saints who have renewed minds (Rom. 12:1-2), ability to comprehend spiritual realities (1 Cor. 2:12-13), who rely on God’s Word and Spirit as source of truth (John 16:13; 17:17).
Unlike the regenerate, the unregenerate (lost) view reality through distorted framework (worldview) and are unable to recognize deception promoted by the Beast (Rom. 1:18-25; 1 Cor. 2:14). Beast’s ability to influence limited almost exclusively to the lost, those whose names were not written in Book of Life before creation (Eph. 1:4; Rev. 17:8). They are wowed by Beast’s wonders and words, giving worship to him through his agents. That occurs when state takes place of God (think Communist countries) and making people dependent on government in ways that belong rightfully to God. Also occurs when people of own volition trust state to provide for basic needs (school lunch), establish moral values (marriage guidelines), protect from all manner of harm (Obamacare), regulate all areas of life.
Yet, even for all that, Beast’s authority and influence is still limited by God’s sovereign will. He “was given” a mouth, authority; “it was granted to him”, “authority was given”; the Beast’s tools were given him by the dragon (v.2). Important to remember that even dragon’s power was derived, given to him by his creator and Sovereign. It was God who granted power and authority along with specific limits, the same God who has set protective boundaries around those whose names have been written in the Book of Life.
C. warning and call to persevere v.9-10
Warning is given with a context: “Que sera, sera; whatever will be, will be”, Doris Day hit of the 50’s, goes on to say “The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera, What will be, will be”. Um, not exactly; that’s fatalism, John’s view is one of sovereign providence. God has a plan, is working his plan, will not deviate from his plan; his plan is to punish evildoers and reward the righteous, making all things right in the end. Appearances are deceiving, Exhibit A: the Beast; faithfully persevere based on what we know the truth to be as revealed in the Bible, not as interpreted on the nightly news.
Satan can threaten, can do harm, even cause saints to lose their lives for sake of the Gospel. However, doesn’t mean that God has lost – death is a reward for saints, planned by God already; Satan merely hastens its coming, at least from our perspective. We must be vigilant so we are not taken in by Satan’s deceptions, putting confidence in wrong thing only to be disappointed. Also important that in our intercession for those in “difficult” countries we pray wisely:
May Christ’s kingdom continue to advance in spite of Satan’s attempts to prevent it. May God continue to preserve the souls of the saints, cause their witness to be effective, strengthen them in whatever physical hardship they experience. May they experience the peace of God when there is no peace. May saints in hard places be given courage and discernment to know what risks to take (the difference between true courage and recklessness). Whether they live or die, are well treated or persecuted, may God receive all the glory.
Regardless of how dire situation appears, we are not to give up on the world and our efforts to bring Gospel to it. God has not abandoned the world or his plan for it; there are those called of God who have yet to come to faith, there’s a created order waiting impatiently for renewal. Times are hard for many, will likely get harder for everyone as Satan realizes his time is up. But, “it ain’t over till it’s over” and we must perservere.
To endure to the end will require perseverance/steadfastness fortified by faith, true saving faith that has the Lord Jesus as its object. He endured much for our sakes, we can endure much for his cause also. When given a choice between fathfulness to Christ and an apparent easy out, we must remain faithful. We have a great blessing: we KNOW how it all ends – the Lamb wins, and so do those who are united with him. All the junk and hardship and sorrow and suffering and evil is limited to this life, will not follow us to the next. Just one glimpse of the Lord Jesus will be more than enough reward.