Unveiling the Symbolism in Revelation
The central purpose of this book is to bring us a revelation of Jesus Christ and His perfect redemption in all of humanity. Christ's redemption can only be perfect and complete when it has abolished all the works of the devil in every human being. A true revelation of Christ is based on the knowledge of the total redemption and restoration of all mankind. As long as we think His redemption is only for a fraction of humanity, our concept of Christ is marred and limited. The calamities and destruction that take place in us are necessary to rid us of everything that is not of Christ. The extent and magnitude of these calamities show us that Christ’s redemption is thorough and complete, and encompasses all of humanity!
“And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.” (v.1)
The sea is a picture of humanity, and the troubled sea is a picture of unregenerate humanity tossed to and fro by the storms of life. Out of humanity comes a beast. What does this beast symbolize? When Paul fought with beasts at Ephesus, he did not fight with four-footed beasts, but with religious people who were against his gospel - people who did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:32) So this beast represents the unbelieving heart or nature of unregenerate or natural humanity.
Notice how this beast fits the description of the dragon in chapter 12:3. He also has ten horns and seven heads. But the dragon’s diadems are on his heads, while the beast’s diadems are on his horns. This description is encoded in symbolism. The ten-horned beast (ten symbolizing completeness, and the horns symbolizing power) with seven heads (seven symbolizing perfection) speaks of complete power and perfect authority in the beast realm. His power and authority are confined to the sea and earth realms — for he arises out of unregenerate humanity.
The close resemblance of the beast to the dragon shows that natural man’s nature is aligned with the dragon’s thinking. It is on par with religious thinking, for Jesus told the religious Jews that they were of their father the devil. (Jn. 8:44) Religiosity comes from the carnal mind, and that mind is always against the Spirit!
The dragon's rule is confined to the carnal mind; he rules humanity's thought processes by appealing to the lusts and desires of the carnal mind! This puts humanity into captivity and under the rule of the dragon. To be freed from his rule we have to be put into the new man, the Christ man, and live out of the mind of Christ!
"And on his horns were ten diadems." The word diadem comes from the Greek DIADEMA, and is derived from diadeo, which means to bind around. A diadem was a kingly ornament for the head. Among the Greeks and Romans it was the distinctive badge of royalty. There is a difference between a diadem and a crown. The word “crown” comes from the Greek STEPHANOS, and it denotes a victor's crown or a token of public honor for distinctive service.
The beast claims royalty on the basis of his power. His power is rooted in the law. Humanity loves its laws – the laws it has created. It loves its doctrines together with their boundaries and limitations, its routines and its rituals. Laws give people power over others. They give people a standard according to which they can measure themselves with one another, and the ability to list their accomplishments, and to point fingers at the non-achievers. They enable people to establish blame. What a powerful religious way of heaping condemnation on non-conformists!
God’s way is completely different! He has given us the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! His spirit is a spirit of love, life and truth! Love conquers hate, bitterness and resentments! His love has only one boundary and one limitation – it cannot love unrighteousness! God’s love for righteousness is so great that He gave His Son to die for a lost humanity! In so doing, He made a way for unrighteous humanity to receive Christ’s righteousness. His Spirit within us enables us to love even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her! We also are to love and give ourselves for the church, and for those who do not know Christ in order that they may get to know Him!
The Holy Spirit gives us power to become witnesses of Jesus Christ! “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you; and you shall be My witnesses.” (Acts 1:8) God gives us power to become His witnesses! It does not say that we are to witness about Him, but to be His witnesses. His power enables us to do His will, and when we do His will we are not doing our own will. Our authority to rule with Christ comes through and in our submission to Christ. It is a life-giving rule! In contrast to Christ’s rule, the rule of the beast brings fear, destruction and death. He forces his rule on people in order to dominate and tyrannize them. His power lies in his ability to deceive and to destroy.
“And on his heads were blasphemous names.” These blasphemous names reveal his contempt of God. Contempt speaks of superiority. So blasphemous names are names of exaltation, and they indicate what his nature is like. Natural man has a problem with submitting himself and his desires to God’s will. In fact, his ego is so strong and powerful that he exalts himself to a place where he is a god to himself.
Isaiah described man’s aspirations in chapter 14:13-14. “But you said in your heart, `I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” This is not a censure against Satan, for maggots and worms are not a covering for him. (v.11) This is a description of man’s pride, and how he exalts himself over and against God.
Humanity's pride is very evident. It continually exalts its thinking above God’s decrees. Every act of disobedience to God's directives is man deifying himself by placing his thinking above God's commandments. He believes that his ideas are superior to God's declarations, and he is very good at justifying his reasoning. For example, verses that speak about homosexuality being a degrading passion are called hate literature, and marriage is redefined. Children are not to be disciplined, for it may affect their self-image negatively. Loving one's enemies is completely disregarded. These are only a few examples of humanity raising its thinking above the clouds of heaven and making itself its own god!
“And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those 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.” (v.2) This exposure of the beastly character of natural man is a frightening depiction!
Let's look at the similarity of the beasts in Daniel's vision and the beast that John saw. Daniel saw four beasts coming up from the sea: the first looked like a lion, the second like a bear, the third like a leopard and the fourth beast was identified by its strength, its very large iron teeth and its ability to devour and destroy. (Dan. 7:3-7) These beasts represented government systems as well as negative or unspiritual aspects of this world’s order. The lion was given a human mind and two feet to enable it to stand as a man. (v. 4) This indicates that the beast has reasoning power , thus giving us the false impression that it understands man’s need and that it will benefit him. It rules through humanism and secularism. These ideas are against the rule of God.
The second beast, resembling a bear, was told to arise and devour much meat. This symbolized that its rule would bring oppression, religious persecution, war, etc. Unless you obey this government’s decrees, you will be devoured. The third beast that looked like a leopard was given dominion. Its four heads indicate its greed for complete power, and this would include social, economic, political and theological dominance. The fourth beast’s large iron teeth capture our attention! They were extremely strong, and they devoured and crushed, and whatever had not been destroyed was trampled down with its feet. This speaks of tyranny and cruelty!
It's interesting to notice that what Daniel saw in four beasts, John saw in one beast – but in a different order. Each beast represents a standard characteristic of the worldly lifestyle or bestial system. It is found in every stratum and avenue of society, whether it is religious, political, economic or family-oriented. And it is always greedy for power, and it governs by force. The consequences for failing to comply are horrendous!
The beast John saw looked like a leopard. A leopard draws our attention to his many spots. It is quite obvious that the leopard does not represent the church of Jesus Christ, for His church is without spot and wrinkle! Spots remind us of flaws - this beast has flaws in his character! He may make a good first impression, but he does not have the character to back it up; he cannot be trusted!
This was a strange beast indeed! He looked like a leopard, but his feet were like a bear’s feet. Feet symbolize a lifestyle, and a bear’s feet represent a very cruel and fierce nature. This is the lifestyle of the world! The world has no compassion for those who are not like-minded. History reveals the ruthlessness, destructiveness and cruelty of human nature! This nature, embedded in religiosity, gave rise to the barbarous destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and the Spanish Inquisition and the holocaust of the Jews – to give just a few examples.
This beast hadthe mouth of a lion. A lion’s mouth causes us to think of very strong teeth – teeth that can tear, devour and destroy! Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (Jn. 10:10) He steals our strength by telling us that God’s promises are only for the future; he kills and destroys by his lies, thus keeping people from receiving the truth. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life! He came to save us out of the lion’s mouth by giving us His life! Whatever trait of the beast is portrayed in us, Christ can purge it out.
“And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.” The dragon can only do his work through people, and therefore wants to gain control over them. To get them under his control he dangles a carrot before their eyes by telling them that he will show them an easy way out of their difficulties. When people act according to the dragon’s incentives and thought processes, the dragon gains power over them. The more they obey him, the more he controls them.
When Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and absorbed his false logic, they received his thinking. Their obedience to the beast gave him power over them and their offspring. The human race now has the dragon’s thought processes. This gives humanity a deceived mind, false logic, selfhood and selfish actions. Humanity can only be made free from its deception and selfhood by receiving the mind of Christ!
“I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast, saying, `Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’” (vv.3-4)
"His fatal wound was healed." Notice that this is past tense. It does not say that one of his heads will be wounded and will be healed. It was healed! We don’t wait for this to happen. Our curiosity is aroused and we wonder when this took place.
We need to remember that the beast represents unregenerate man’s nature. In other words, it represents the old Adam man’s nature. In Genesis 2 God said to Adam, “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Adam listened to the serpent, disobeyed God, and received the mind of the beast. Now his deceived mind told him that God was his enemy, so he tried to hide from God. His disobedience became his death sentence; his mind no longer functioned in life, but in death. The mind that is set on the flesh cannot please God for it is hostile toward God. Adam’s mind had become hostile toward God! Although Adam did not die physically until 930 years later, his ability to think God’s thoughts died. To compensate for this lack, he became religious. He created his own religion and works to bring about his own salvation. This gave the impression that his deadly wound was healed. So humanity followed after the beast and worshiped the dragon. Humanity still worships its own thoughts and imaginations!
Man cannot relinquish his own thoughts and receive God’s thoughts because his own ideas seem so real and true to him! Although God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, we stubbornly resist them. Whenever we place our own thoughts above God’s thoughts, we worship our own thoughts. This is worshiping the dragon. We do not need a physical image of the dragon to be dragon worshipers. Disobedience to the word of God is dragon worship!
Humanity’s adulation of self is summarized in the words, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” Man falsely thinks that he is in control and that he does not need God!
“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.” (v.5) Arrogant words involve self-exaltation. Man can never be the greatest, but in his own mind and in his own deductions he is. He may not admit it, but every act of disobedience to God proves this mindset. This great deception is the mark of the beast stamped indelibly on the forehead of man.
But notice that the beast’s authority is limited! It is limited to forty-two months or 3½ years. In Rev. 11 we have already explained that 42 months symbolizes one’s time of ministry, and therefore it does not refer to an actual 3½ years; it is a picture or an idea. For example, the beast’s time of ministry in each one of us ends at whatever time we receive Christ! Christ takes us out of the old Adam man and puts us into the new Christ man! The beast has no authority over those who are in Christ, for the truth frees them from the lies of the beast and from their bondage to self.
Due to their ignorance of the truth, many Christians live in a duality; they still think the dragon has power over them. They do not understand that Christ, the truth, has made them free from their bondage to sin, and that through their new birth they are now spiritual beings. Paul said, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” (Rom. 7:18) The lusting and the selfish desires of the flesh are the cause of sin in my members. The good news is that as spiritual beings we are no longer in the flesh. In Romans 8:9 Paul said, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
Our soul life is ruled either by the high realm of the Spirit or the low realm of the flesh. The soul is our sense of being, and our sense of being is formed by our circumstances, experiences, emotions, will and desires. When the soul is ruled by the Spirit, we will do the things that please God; when it is ruled by the flesh, the sin in our members will take over.
Even though we belong to Christ, a war still exists between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh is always against the Spirit, and the Spirit is always against the flesh. The flesh does not want to hear the Spirit, nor is it able to hear the Spirit. This emphasizes the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit. He can only rule within us when we have ears to hear Him and the desire to obey Him! Whenever we shut out the Holy Spirit, the flesh rises up to do its work – work that is always against the truth! We have the anointing of the Holy Spirit within us, but we must always have the willingness to listen to Him!
“And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” (vv.6-7)
How does he speak blasphemies against God? Every time he tells us that we cannot trust God, that God will not keep His promises, that we should look at our own track record for our salvation, that he is stronger than God, etc., he blasphemes God’s name! In fact, every lie is a blasphemy against God!
These blasphemies are the result of pride and unbelief. The blasphemies out of pride are more easily recognized than those that come out of unbelief, for the latter may even sound very religious and pious. When we emphasize our humility by belittling ourselves, we are actually belittling God's workmanship, for we are His workmanship. God says we are new creations in Christ, we are His children, we are born of the Spirit, and we have a high calling in Christ Jesus! Humility is evident in our willingness to receive the Spirit's teaching and correction, and to submit our will to God's will. Every disagreement with God is a blasphemy against His omniscience and righteousness. Unbelief in God’s declarations is blasphemy!
In the midst of our so-called humility, we may still depend on our own resources and shrewdness instead of believing God. When our dependence on self fails, we promise ourselves to do better next time. Instead of repenting of our lack of faith, we bewail our failures. God has told us that without Him we can do nothing that pleases Him, but our pride and lack of faith do not let us submit to His word. Pride in self is blasphemy against our Maker!
That is why we need to humble ourselves. God hears the prayers of those who are humble in heart. The humble will not impose their ideas over and above God’s word! They will hear the Spirit and adjust their lifestyle to fit God’s directives! Living in the life of the Spirit is living in the heavenlies. The beast is against those who dwell in heaven.
"It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them." In our minds this presents a problem. How can he make war against those who are seated with Christ in heavenly places when he is limited to the earth realm? How can he overcome the saints? God says that we are kept by the power of God! Is the beast’s power greater than God’s keeping power?
Again we look at the life of Jesus! Did Satan win his war over Jesus? Satan could only exert his power over the physical life of Jesus. Even that power was given to him. He had no power over Christ’s spiritual life! Christ remained firmly rooted in God’s keeping power in the midst of the most horrendous suffering known to man! He knew the Holy Spirit was leading Him, and no amount of suffering could get Him off course! Satan can wield his power through earthly governments to win over the saints as far as their physical life is concerned. Governments can place restrictions on Christians, persecute them and throw them into prison, etc. It looks as though Satan has won, but his victory is limited to the physical! And even that power has to be given him. Jesus said to Pilate, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above." (John 19:11) The devil cannot take away our life in God, nor can he stop the fruitfulness of that life! He could not thwart the purpose God had for Christ, and he cannot thwart God’s purpose for our life!
The beast’s hate has no limits. He warred against Jesus, so why should we expect him to spare the saints! He can only overcome the saints when this power is given to him, for he cannot go beyond the limits that God sets for him. Jesus knew this, so He was confident in God's plan and authority even while He stood before Pilate. The beast can only have authority over tribes and nations when this power is given him by God. Though it appears to be a victory, it is not. The devil thought he had won when Jesus was crucified, but the resurrection proved that it was actually Satan's defeat. The devil can never thwart God's plans!
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, every one whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” (v.8)
The names of the worshipers of the beast are not written in the book of life because they are dwelling in the death and darkness of their carnal mind. This is dwelling on earth. Earth dwellers live according to the dictates of the carnal mind. They worship the beast because they are blind to spiritual realities, and are not interested in truth. They are satisfied with their traditions and doctrines and intellectual understanding.
The natural mind finds it hard to understand that we can dwell in heaven while we are living on planet earth. It thinks that Christians have to die before they can go to heaven. It does not understand that heaven is a place where God rules, and that we can be under the rule of God while we are living on this earth.
Our submission to the teaching and leading of the Holy Spirit reveals that we are living in the spiritual realm - and that realm is higher than the earth realm. Paul said that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Those who dwell in heaven do not worship the beast, for they only worship Christ (truth). They understand that God is spirit, that His word is spirit, that His children are spiritual beings, and that obedience to His words is life! Their life is in Christ, and Christ is their life! They are abiding in Christ while they are on planet earth!
When was the Lamb slain? He was slain from the foundation of the world. We thought He was slain when the Jews and Gentiles crucified Him on the cross. Yet here it says that He was slain from the foundation of the world. To understand this, we have to look at the meaning of the Greek word KATABOLE, translated foundation; it literally means, “a casting down”. When Adam disobeyed God, he cast down the government of God in his heart. Instead of agreeing with God, he agreed with the serpent. In Hebrews 11:11 this word is also used of Sarah when she received the ability to conceive. In order to conceive she had to cast down her unbelief.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” This tells us that there are two kinds of seed. Jesus Christ is the seed of the woman, and Adam became the seed of the serpent when he listened to the voice of the serpent and obeyed him. Adam knowingly disobeyed God, and thereby cast down God’s government in his heart; in so doing, he conceived the serpent’s seed. He now had a mind that was dead to spiritual realities and therefore it was against God!
"Every one whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb." The book of the life of the Lamb is a description of the life that is in the Lamb. In biblical understanding, our name represents our nature. To have our name written in this book, means that our nature has become one with the nature of the Lamb. It is not a book that lists millions of names, but it is a revelation of the nature of the life of the Lamb. Everyone who has the life of Christ is in that book, for Christ is our life. A more detailed discussion follows in chapter 20.
“If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” (v.9) This is God’s method of calling our attention to the fact that a spiritual message can only be heard by spiritual ears. It cannot be understood by the natural mind. We are to understand that the words used have a symbolic meaning. In other words, we are to pay attention to the spiritual message encoded in these word pictures.
“If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” (v.10) Let’s look at the spiritual message God is giving us.
There are two kinds of captives: captives of self and captives of Christ. Captives of self are those who have been captured by the serpent. The serpent lured Adam and Eve into captivity with his lying and deceptive words, and thus brought all humanity into a bondage to him. Captives of the serpent are captives of the self-life. They are not free to live beyond the boundaries of self.
Being a captive of Christ is very different! There is no deception in Christ! His love and kindness overcome all our fears and doubts about His intention for us! His love persuades us to entrust ourselves to Him! His truth persuades us to believe everything He says about Himself and everything He says about us! This relationship is founded on truth and love! Knowing that His ways are higher than our ways, we follow Him and voluntarily and joyfully become His bondslaves!
Our captivity to Christ frees us from our captivity to Satan. This is very upsetting to Satan, so he uses a smorgasbord of deceptive ideas to tempt us to obey him. He tells us to choose the lie that appeals to us! If we recognize one lie and resist it, he tempts us with another – just like he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He tried to lure Jesus into sinning by appealing to His pride, and by offering Him a reward for obeying him. Satan promised to give Jesus the kingdoms of this world if He would worship him. In other words, Jesus could receive the kingdoms through worshiping the serpent instead of through dying a cruel death on the cross! Satan wants us to believe that we can get God’s promises the easy way, that is, through disobedience to God and obedience to himself, but God's promises are only available to us through believing and obeying Him. Satan always presents himself in a beautiful light. He gives us the idea that God is very hard on us, while he himself is very concerned about our welfare, and promises us an easy and happy life if we obey him. Satan wants our worship and tries to get it through deception.
Another very effective way of gaining control over people is by flattery. This draws people away from their dependence on Christ. For example, saying that faith is necessary only for those who are not gifted intellectually flatters the ego and consequently encourages them to believe in self instead of in God. Another example is the emphasis on choice. They say that we can become like God by making the right choices. Choice has its root in self, so it appeals to our pride. Those who feed on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are always choosing. Those who get their sustenance from the tree of life do not choose, for there is no evil in God's life. Just as Christ only functioned in obedience to the Father's will, so His followers do the same.
Christians often need encouragement, especially when they are being reviled or spoken evil of. Instead of encouraging the Christ-life, we often encourage the self-life by blaming others, by looking for an easy solution, or by watering down or minimizing the results of disobedience. These ideas lure them back into Satan's control. Without realizing it, we have encouraged them to return to their bondage to self. Our eyes need to be fixed on Jesus at all times. We know that all his plans and ways for us are good, so we can trust His promise that all things work together for good to those who love Him!
Stephen is a good example for us. He was not distracted from his focus of trust in God when the council members furiously gnashed their teeth at him. In the midst of this fear-inducing situation, Stephen looked intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God! He was so full of the Holy Spirit that the matter of life or death was immaterial to him. He was convinced that God's purpose for his life was best.
“If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.” This message is encoded in symbolism, and does not refer to physical death. Instead, it tells us that this sword is the two-edged sword of the Spirit - the word of God. How can people be killed by the word of God? In 2 Cor. 3:6 Paul said, “Who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” When the word of God is applied legalistically, it is used as a Bible club to beat people into submission to their ideas and doctrines. This brings condemnation and death. It takes away hope and joy, and brings people into the bondage of despair, despondency and death. Those who do this prove that they are still in their natural thinking; they have not come out of legalism and into grace - out of death and into life.
"With the sword he must be killed.” The same two-edged sword that was used to kill others now has to kill them, so they can be resurrected into life. It is the life that is in the word of God that kills our legalism and self-righteousness. Just like a grain of wheat has to die before it can come into life and be fruitful, so we have to die and come into life before we can be fruitful. This is not a physical death; it is a death to sin. It comes to us through the sword of the Spirit – the word of God. Condemnation and legalism show that we have not yet died to our natural thinking processes. The sword of the Spirit has to bring death to our natural thinking, so we can come into life. When the word becomes life in us, we will minister life instead of death!
“Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” The saints know that God’s words will never fail! God is true; He never lies! Circumstances may look dreadful at the moment, but the saints know that God’s word to them will not fail. This persuasion gives them perseverance in the face of the most horrendous trials in this life! “For I am convinced (persuaded) that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39) This knowledge gives us the encouragement to remain faithful and true in every circumstance of life.
“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.” (v.11) John saw another beast arise which had great powers. To understand the message this picture represents, we need the wisdom of the Spirit!
The first beast came out of the sea of unregenerate humanity, and the second one came out of the earth – out of carnal Christians. These Christians are living in the earthy realm where they only see spiritual realities in the natural seen realm. They think their soulish emotions are a sign of their spirituality, for they do not recognize their carnal condition.
The duality of this beast is recognized by the fact that his appearance did not match the words that came out of his mouth. He looked like a lamb but spoke as a dragon. This beast looks like a Christian, but he doesn’t speak and act like one; he is double-minded. In James we read that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Though he has the mind of Christ, he is being ruled by the carnal mind; he may call Jesus, “Lord Jesus,” but that lordship is always in question and under the control of his carnal thinking. So he chooses the direction he thinks he should take, and does what looks right in his own eyes. This demonstrates the lordship of self because self is in charge of its decisions. It thinks it knows what is best for it self! When we are under Christ’s lordship, we don’t choose, because choice is not obedience. This persuasion causes us to willingly submit to His lordship, and have delight in doing His will!
The beast looked like a lamb (he went to church and was engaged in religious activities), but he couldn't speak like a lamb because he had the heart of a beast. The mouth reveals what is in the heart. The sons (Gr. HUIOS - mature sons) of God have the heart and mind of Christ; they are united with Christ, and He is their life. They have no need to pretend they are something they are not. They have not been called to be actors; they have been called to be sons; they are His body, and therefore one with Him. There is no duality in Christ! In Christ we have union, not duality!
The beast spoke as a dragon. The voice of a dragon induces fear. The dragon intimidates both its subjects and its enemies. The combination of the lamb and the dragon symbolizes the religious system that comes out of carnal Christians. Religiosity tries to scare people into heaven. To escape this dreadful fate of eternal hellfire, people are told that they need to get some fire insurance, that is, they need to accept Christ as their Savior. Though their goal is right, the inducement to reach that goal does not agree with Paul who said, “that the kindness of God leads you to repentance.” The religious dragon spews out fear, condemnation and the threat of eternal fire if his laws, traditions and practices are not followed, but God draws us by His love!
“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.” (v.12) How does the second beast exercise the power of the first beast? Just as the first beast worshiped his own thoughts, so this beast worships his own thoughts and ideas about God and righteousness. He firmly believes that his understanding of God and of the Bible can’t possibly be wrong! Instead of hearing the voice of the Spirit, he only hears the voice of his own understanding, thereby creating his own religious philosophies.
The religious beast’s authority does not come from Christ, but from his own intellectual persuasion. He does not follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. but establishes rules and regulations that attract people to his philosophy. He deceives people into believing that they can be made righteous and holy by their good works. This brings him many followers who are lured into a bondage and dependence on him. But his authority is limited to those who live on earth, that is, in their carnal mind. Those who live in the spiritual or heavenly realm are listening to the Spirit, so they are free from his influence.
"Whose fatal wound was healed.” It does not say that his fatal wound will be healed - it was healed. What is that fatal wound? When Adam sinned he received a fatal wound by losing his intimacy with God. To heal this wound he became religious and tried to become like God through his own works. The aprons of fig leaves that he fashioned, signifies righteousness by one's own works. Humanity continues to worship this beast of good works, and practices religiosity instead of godliness.
“He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.” (v.13) Since these signs are not the work of the Holy Spirit, we know that deception is woven into their fabric. During the time of Moses, the magicians of Egypt pitted their magical arts against God's power, but they could only copy God's miracles up to a certain point. By their secret arts they cast down their staffs, and they became serpents, but Aaron’s staff was superior to their staffs, and swallowed them. The magicians could also turn water into blood and bring frogs onto the land of Egypt, but they could not turn the blood back into water, nor could they do away with the frogs. After these miracles they were unable to copy any further miracles God performed!
Here in John's vision the beast could even make fire come down from heaven! Fire represents judgment that brings purification. The beast is an imitator; he tries to copy God’s power in judgment. For example, the fire that God rained on Sodom and Gomorrah was a judgment against their immoral living. The fire the beast brings down represents the punishments he establishes for those who disobey the requirements of his system. This establishes a better community than one in which everyone can do as he pleases. Everyone appreciates a good community, so the beast is applauded!
However, rules and regulations enforced by punishment bring great bondage. They cannot change the heart of man! Only Christ can do that! To have a truly good life we need to be born again. We need to be taken out of our self-centeredness and be transformed into Christ-centeredness!
“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 there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, 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.” (vv.14-15)
In this vision John saw that the beast which arose out of the sea, and the beast which came out of the earth, were one in purpose. The religiosity of the unregenerate is the same religiosity as that of the church system. They work together to cause those who dwell on earth (in their natural mind) to worship an image of the beast.
What does an image of the beast look like? An image is not the reality. People often try to promote a certain image of themselves in order to create credibility. The beast’s purpose is to make himself appear so desirable that people will be willing to worship him! So he veils his true self, and sets up an image of himself that portrays him as being very good and as one who is very interested in humanity’s welfare. He does this by getting religious humanity, as well as the religious church, to have a wrong idea of God and Jesus Christ, so that the false image of the beast is worshiped instead of the true God.
This false image of God is the image of the beast, and it comes in many disguises. The image comes in the guise of a Christian God, a Pentecostal God, a Baptist God, a Jewish God, a Hindu God, a Moslem God, etc. His demands are many! Choose the good – and the good varies according to the doctrines of each god. This false image of God is the image of the beast!
In Matthew 7:22-23 Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” The declaration that "I never knew you' means that He never had an intimate relationship with them. To our amazement, we see that miracles can be performed in the name of Jesus, even when there is no living relationship with Him. These works flow out of pride, and bear the image of the beast.
The Pharisees wanted Jesus to perform a sign that would prove to them that He was the Son of God. Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign.” (Matt. 12:39) Generally we don’t associate people who demand or desire signs with being evil and adulterous. However, their craving for signs reveals their unbelief – and unbelief is evil! People crave signs instead of relationship! How often we have prayed, “God, please do this sign so people will believe that you are real!” If we want God to fulfill their craving, we are praying for a desire that was not initiated by God. Jesus resisted the people’s demand for signs; He only did the miracles the Father showed Him to do!
Signs are not the reality! They point to the reality, but they are not the reality. Do we want signs or do we want the reality? Are we satisfied with the excitement of signs, or do we want the maturity that comes with sonship? Jesus was the mature Son (HUIOS) of God! He knew who He was! Do we, God's children, actually know who we are? We are who God says we are, but so often we don’t believe Him, because we believe what our natural mind is telling us.
Unbelief cannot worship God. It can adhere to the external forms of singing and praising God, but true worship is more than singing and praising God; true worship is obedience! If we do not obey God, we are not worshiping Him. If we obey our natural thinking and make our own decisions and choices, we are worshiping self; we are worshiping the image of the beast!
This image of the beast is appealing to our legalistic nature that demands punishment for every failure to comply with the accepted norms. Satan demands worship, and demands that all who will not worship him must be killed! Satan proved that this was his objective when he tempted Jesus. Satan focuses on man’s desire for an easy luxurious long life, and he promises this as a reward for man’s worship of him! Jesus did not focus on long physical life; His only desire was to do the will of the Father! Any other desires will lead us astray!
In our country neither the government nor the church kills those who do not accept its doctrines, that is, those who do not agree with their way of thinking. They may be excommunicated, persecuted and verbally abused, or told that they are going to hell, but they are not killed physically. However, in many countries they do kill them!
“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 provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.” (vv.16-17)
In the NASV translation the word causes is in the present tense; in some translations it is in the past tense. But it is not in the future tense! It is not something new in the sense that it has not happened before.
The beast does not exclude anyone who dwells on earth (in his natural understanding) from receiving this mark. It is given to those in high positions and in low positions, to the rich and the poor, to the free and the slaves. But it cannot be given to those who are in Christ, for they are dwelling in the heavenlies even while they are living on planet earth. Everyone who does not have the mark or the number of his name will suffer dire consequences! Their physical bodies can be made to suffer, but their spirit cannot be touched adversely!
What kind of mark is put on their foreheads and hands? Some think it is a microchip, a social security number, or some other device that will identify them. Let’s remember that this identification is not a new mark that is to be invented; this mark has been present ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit!
The mark of the beast on the forehead is not a visible sign. Since our thinking takes place in our head, this mark symbolizes man’s natural thinking of spiritual realities. When Adam and Eve obeyed the serpent, they received the mark of the beast on their forehead. This mark is not a physical 666 mark. The number 666 on the forehead represents the dragon's perverted understanding of God, and that thinking has been passed on to all of humanity through Adam and Eve's obedience to the serpent. The number 666 on the hand symbolizes the actions that have their source or origin in that thinking. Adam and Eve received the number 666 on their hands after they had accepted the serpent's suggestion and they took the fruit and ate it. This action changed their whole relationship with God. They no longer enjoyed fellowship with God. They now viewed Him as their enemy, feared Him and hid from Him!!
A false image of God places the mark of the beast on our foreheads. God is not created by our imagination. He is spirit and He is invisible to the natural eye! Only He knows who He is. Therefore we can only get to know Him through revelation! This shows us the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit, for He leads us into all truth! God has revealed Himself in Christ Jesus - not in the physical form of Jesus, but in His anointing! Truth is an eternal reality; we cannot change it into a form that looks desirable to us. It cannot be bent or twisted. We have to be changed by the truth. Truth is the very essence of Christ!
The hand represents man’s works. So the mark of the beast on the hand symbolizes the works that do not originate in God, but in the beast. For example, when Adam and Eve took the fruit and ate it, contrary to God’s command, they received the mark of the beast on their hands. This act had its source in the serpent and was against the express will of God. By partaking of this fruit, Adam and Eve were trying to become like God by disobeying God. This never works!
All works that do not have their source in God carry the mark of the beast. All good works that are performed for the sake of glorifying self, or for purchasing our own righteousness, or for creating a certain image of self, place the mark of the beast on our hands.
“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.” (v.18) Do we desire wisdom, or are we satisfied with humanity’s false deductions? The wisdom of God teaches us that man can never achieve perfection by his own effort. Man was made on the sixth day. A six can never become a seven – the number that symbolizes perfection - without outside help. No matter how many sixes are added to the six, the six can never reach the perfection symbolized by seven. Humanity can never devise a method through which it can achieve its own salvation. Man’s methods do not have their source in God. Only when we come into the recognition of this important truth, will we come to Christ! This is wisdom; when we become wise, we will receive His wonderful salvation!
We praise God that He has provided a way that takes us out of our death in Adam (our imperfection) and joins us to the very life that God is (our perfection)!