The War in Heaven
It almost seems folly to try to speak on two Chapter s in Revelation, at one time. We realize we cannot do either one justice. Our purpose, however, is to present merely the mountain peaks of truth as we move along.
1. We have before us a great wonder in Heaven, John saw this wonder of a woman clothed with the sun, and upon her head a crown filled with stars. That the woman is Israel, there can be little, if any doubt. She travailed in childbirth; and, there appeared another wonder in Heaven, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, seven crowns upon his head. This dragon had a tail, which drew a third part of the stars of Heaven, that cast them to the earth. John beheld, and lo, the dragon stood before the woman to devour her child as soon as it was born. A man child was born, "Who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne."
The above closes the first vision of chapter twelve. The first thought might be, that the man child was Christ and the great wonder fits that perfectly. However, we are sure that the Holy Spirit was telling us of things to come, and the man child primarily represents the saints who will be one with Christ, ruling the nations. The rapture of the saints was forecast in the rapture of our Lord. We too, are going up to be forever with Him.
2. We have before us the woman fleeing into the wilderness. This, of course, is still Israel, or, the remnant of Israel. The time is the tribulation period. in the wilderness God had prepared a place, "That they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days." This period is the same in length, and we believe is parallel in time with the same number of days, and the forty-two months of Revelation 11:2-3
It is all sure to happen. Israel will flee into the wilderness. God will have a place prepared for her. Some prophetic students think that the place is Petra, the deserted city, with wonderful homes hued out in stone, which have now been empty for centuries.
3. We have before us the third stage in John's vision. It is found in verses seven to nine, This phase of the vision describes war in Heaven: "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in Heaven." Thus, the great dragon, Satan, the old serpent, called the devil, which deceiveth the whole world, will be cast, with all of his angels, into the earth.
4. We have before us the fourth step in the vision. As soon as the air, the heaven above us, was rid of Satan, and his angels; John heard a loud voice saying in Heaven, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ." The one who had accused the brethren during the centuries, and accused them before God day and night, was now cast down.
We are glad for this little touch the Holy Spirit puts in. He relates: "And they (the saints who were accused) overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death." In the heavens there was great joy, and all who dwelt in them gave acclamation and praise unto God as Satan was cast down.
On earth the scene was entirely different. To the inhabiters of the earth, the words were spoken: "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the seal for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
The first act of the dragon, after he was cast unto the earth, was to persecute the woman which brought forth the man child. Then it was, however, that God gave unto the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, The woman will remain there, hid away for a time, and times, and half a time. That means our same three years and a half.
The devil, however, did cast out of his mouth, water as a flood, after the woman. He evidently sent his armies after her to overtake and crush her. However. "The earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth."
When the dragon saw that Israel, the woman, was protected, as we believe by certain nations; then, he began to make war with the remnant of her seed who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. This remnant would include the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed Jews whom God has reserved to give testimony for Him, upon the earth during the years of tribulation.
I. THE BEAST OUT OF THE SEA (Revelation 13:1)
1. The beast but of the sea, must be the antichrist. He came out of the sea, because the sea stands for nations, peoples, tongues, and tribes.
A great many people imagine that the pictorial scenes of Revelation cannot be definitely understood. To the contrary, it seems to us, that the Holy Spirit has made them plain and simple, to those who know the Scriptures as a whole. They may be, and are, hidden to the minds of the unregenerate, but the saints who are taught of God they are, indeed, what the name of the book suggests a revelation, and by no means a hiding or a covering. We, at this moment, are intently watching the world nations, awaiting the moment when the antichrist may appear.
This beast out of the sea has seven heads. That is, he stands for the perfection of human lordship. He is the acme of intelligence. The whole world will wonder after him.
The beast out of the sea has ten horns. Horns stand for nations, and kingdoms of the earth. Upon his horns he has ten crowns. This means that the antichrist will rule as king over the ten nations, which give him their allegiance.
We all well know the meaning of the ten toes of the great colossus or image, of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. We also know the meaning of the ten horns which are seen in the other visions, recorded in Daniel. This message in verse one, stands side by side with that one.
2. The beast out of the sea, bears the name of blasphemy upon his head. He is the False Prophet. He comes to blaspheme God and all of the saints of God. Verse six tells us, "And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in Heaven."
It would not be difficult for the antichrist to be popular among men while he, at the same time, blasphemed God and the saints. At this very moment the earth is filled with blasphemers. It is nothing, even in places dedicated to God, to hear everything vital to the deity of our Lord blasphemed. His virgin birth; His vicarious suffering; the just for the unjust; His literal resurrection; His ascension, and present high priestly work with the Father; His coming in the clouds to reign upon the earth, all are blasphemed.
II. THE ANTICHRIST EMPOWERED BY THE DEVIL (Revelation 13:2)
1. The vision of the beast. Verse two tells us that he is like unto a leopard, his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion. The studies of Daniel's prophesies make these beasts, and the nations they represent, plain and positive. Take for instance, Daniel 7:4-6. In verse four, we have the lion; in verse five, the bear; in verse six, we have the leopard. The nations, in our chapter are given in reverse order. In Daniel the Holy Spirit is looking forward, and he sees the nations as they arise in order, the one after the other. The lion was the first world empire, known as the Babylonian. The bear was the second world empire, the Medo-Persian. The leopard was the third world empire, the Grecian.
When the antichrist comes, the three world empires are at represented in the new world confederacy. In Daniel 7:7 a fourth beast is mentioned. This is the Roman Empire, It has ten horns. The three beasts are mentioned in verse two because the antichrist, himself, is the fourth beast, for that empire will be once more established among men.
Indeed, this is the dream of the present Roman dictator, Mussolini. His highest ambition is to re-establish the Roman Empire upon the earth. Perhaps, the antichrist will not rise in our day, although it seems to us it must be very soon. When he does come, the Roman Empire will come into power, with a world sweep. It will bear the marks of the former world empires of Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Alexander the Great, and of the Caesars.
2. The vision of the beast empowered by the dragon. We know that the dragon is Satan, and the beast out of the sea is certainly, as we have said, the antichrist. It is to this antichrist that the dragon, Satan, gives his power, and his seat and great authority. You all will remember how Satan, of yore, showed unto Christ the kingdoms of this world, and the glories of them, and said, "All these things will I give thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me." When this other one comes, the devil will make the same proposition to him, and he will accept.
Satan, himself, will rule to be sure, but he will gladly rule behind the scene. He will give his power to the antichrist upon the condition, of course, that the antichrist will be his vassal.
Think not that Satan has no power to give. The people who call him the old scratch, the old nick, and the like had better think again before they call him thus. Even Michael the archangel, durst not bring against the devil a railing accusation. The Bible calls Satan the god of this world. It describes the world as lying in the wicked one. It only takes a casual glance around one, to realize that the world is under the dragon. God has His people, but so has Satan; and Satan at this time has the majority.
III. THE RULE OF THE ANTICHRIST (Revelation 13:3-4)
1. A temporary setback to his rule. Verse three says, "I saw one of his heads, as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed." As we see it, one of the nations, held under the antichrist's sway, will revolt. It will not be long, however, until the breech in his authority, is overcome and the wound is healed, as this revolting nation comes back under his dominion, a remarkable statement is made. Let us consider it.
2. A world-wide admiration. When the wound, which was very serious, because it was as it were unto death, was healed, then all the world wondered after the beast. The news of his power and glory, of the might of his dominion, was carried by twentieth century telegraphs, cables, and radio transmissions to the whole world; and the world wondered after the beast. It was on everybody's tongue. It was the conversation in the great cities, the hamlets, and the plains. The world was saying, "What does this mean?" They were asking questions as to whether the millennium had come at last. They were thinking that perhaps a Utopia in the governments of men had arrived. On the world horizon, in the sight of all, a man had stepped forth who seemed to be supreme, in every walk of life. He stood head and shoulders, in intellect, in wisdom, and in skill, above all other men. He was as a giant among pigmies.
3. A world-wide worship,
(1) They worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast. In other words, the world knew that the antichrist was Satan-enabled. Therefore, casting off all allegiance to God and to His Cross, they bowed the knee as they worshipped the devil. This, of course, will be very much to the likening of that archenemy of God, who has always sought to exalt himself above God, and all that is worshipped.
(2) They worshipped the beast who reigned under the authority of Satan. There have been many men, during the ages, who have desired to be enthroned as deities. Even at this moment the emperor of Japan is the recipient of a worshipful mien, on the part of his people. The antichrist, however, will be universally worshipped. This will be easily possible. Germany almost worships Hitler, Italy almost worships Mussolini, and Russia almost worships Stalin. As they worship the beast the world will cry out in admiration, "Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"
IV. A PERIOD OF BLASPHEMIES AGAINST GOB (Revelation 13:5-6)
1. A mouth speaking great things. This is the description of verse five. We have thought, and still think, that modernism is the preparation for the coming of the antichrist. If we turn to the book of Jude, the Lord describes certain men who will creep in among the saints in the last days, These men will turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, denying the only God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. These men will make hard speeches against God. They will be mockers of the things divine. Now we come to a statement, in verse sixteen, where these certain men are described as speaking great swelling words.
Thus, when the antichrist comes, a mouth will be given unto him speaking great things.
2. A mouth speaking blasphemies. As he speaks great things for himself, and for the devil, he will also speak great things in blasphemy against God. He will not only blaspheme God, but will blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and the saints of God. We remember, of old, how Satan said to Eve. "Hath God said?" And, "God doth know." In this Satan impugned God. Impugned Him in his words, and in his acts.
We, with our own ears, have heard men on the streets, blaspheming God, and saying that God was to blame for all of the depression which had come to the world in recent years. It will not be difficult for Satan and his antichrist to place against God the charge of having engulfed the world in all of its difficulties and sorrows. He will tell the world that they have, at last, found the way out, and they can now shout, "Eureka."
The saints also will fall heir to Satan's blasphemy. Are not the Jews at this moment being condemned for everything adverse, for everything that is happening on the earth? Let us be sure that the church will also be blamed. Yea, it is now being blamed by many. They call the church a group of aristocrats, and monied people, who are against the prolaterial.
V. A PERIOD OF PERSECUTIONS AGAINST THE SAINTS (Revelation 13:7-10)
1. A victorious onslaught. In verse seven we read, "And it was given unto him to make, war with the saints, and to overcome them." The word saints here, may have a twofold significance.
(1) First of all it refers to the Jews who are His special people. Against these the antichrist will set himself with unrelenting vigor and antipathy. We grant that some, in Israel, will make a league with the antichrist, and will become his chief supporter. The Jews, as a whole, however, will be unwilling to relinquish their faith in God; and they are utterly repugnant to worshipping a man. The fact that they are running away from God, does not mean that they have rejected altogether the faith of their fathers. Jonah, in the ship, was running away, but Jonah said, I am a Jew, and I worship one God.
When Nebuchadnezzar's image of gold was erected on the plain of Dura, there were three Hebrew children who would not worship the image; and there will be plenty of Jews who will neither worship the antichrist nor his image.
(2) The expression, "saints" refers also to a great multitude that shall be saved out of every kindred tongue and tribe. Against these the antichrist will also make war. And, as we will discover later, the blood of the martyrs will flow once more upon the earth.
2. A worshipful and idolizing world. Verse eight says, "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 foundations of the world." This verse also suggests two things.
(1) It suggests the universality of the worship of the antichrist. Think of the sweep of his power. All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him.
(2) It suggests a minority who will not worship him. These are those, who are children of God, saved no doubt after the rapture. They are elect of God, whose names are in God's book; they include those Jews who are saved and sealed, during the Tribulation, or who are marked in God's election unto salvation. These, thank God, will refuse to bow and to bend the knee to the antichrist.
Thank God there will be many who will "dare to be a Daniel," and, "dare to stand alone." The Lord, even in those dark days which are to come, will have many in all lands, in all nations, kindreds and tongues, who will not bow to the antichrist.
3. As verse eight closes, God gives a special cry: "If any man have an ear, let him hear." Then God says, "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity, he that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword." The Lord is saying unto His martyrs, "Be faithful unto death, and remember that those who have imprisoned, and killed you, shall receive from Heaven a like judgment. This, says God, is "The patience, and the faith of the saints."
VI. THE SECOND BEAST COMING UP OUT OF THE EARTH (Revelation 11:11-14)
1. The second beast described. He comes up out of the earth. We take this to mean that he will come from among the Jewish people. If we are correct in our suggestion, we need not be surprised, for there are plenty of outstanding Jews, today, who would count it a privilege to be linked with the antichrist.
This second beast has two horns like a lamb. Jesus Christ is, of course, God's Lamb. Here is some one who comes professing to be religious, and lamb-like, and yet he speaks like a dragon. He is energized by all of the power of the first beast before him, and he exercises a like power.
It is he who causes the earth, and them that dwell therein, to worship the first beast. As a religionist, he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from Heaven on the earth, in the sight of men. Once more we can easily see Satan's power, because Satan can work miracles, and he does work them. He cannot work ail of the miracles that God works, for God is greater than he, by far; however, he can work miracles, sufficient to make the world wonder.
2. The result of the second beast's activities. Verse fourteen tells us, "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." In Second Thessalonians, chapter two, in connection with the divine description of the antichrist, are these words: "For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie."
Verse nine says that the antichrist's coming will be after the power, and the working of Satan with all power, and signs, and lying wonders; and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.
Returning to our chapter, in Revelation, we find the same thing, the same lying wonders, and signs, and miracles. The result is the deception of the people that dwell on the earth. This false prophet, as we call him, says to them that dwell upon the earth, that they should make an image unto the beast. This leads us to our seventh consideration.
VII. THE MARK AND NUMBER OF THE BEAST (Revelation 13:15-18)
1. In verse fifteen the great image of the beast is raised. By some means the false prophet puts life into the image, so 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." How this is done we do not know, but that it will be done, literally done, we believe.
The erection of an image unto the beast will be but a natural procedure. Nebuchadnezzar raised his image of gold; and we have read of the image which Mussolini has erected in Rome. Here, however, is an image that, either by trickery or by act, shall speak. And from it rays or something will go forth that will kill those who approach it and who refuse to bow down.
2. In verse sixteen the false prophet causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their forehead. We need not wonder at this.
Years ago when the N.R.A. sign was being displayed by order of our government, we received a letter asking us if this was the mark of the beast. We replied that it certainly was not, but that it showed the possibility that such a mark might be given under commandatory powers. Other nations beside ours have done these things. There are myriads of men and women, too, who are carrying marks upon their bodies at this moment. None of these are the marks, however, of the antichrist.
3. Verse seventeen gives the objective of the mark of the beast. It reads thus: "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." Our NRA sign also had to do with commercialism, that is, with buying and selling, but in a limited way. This mark will be world wide in its reach, and far more drastic in its demand.
4. Verse eighteen gives God's call to His people. The verse reads thus: "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." A great many have tried to find out what the number 666 means. It means the number of a man. It is repeated three times, because of the devilish trinity. The divine trinity is represented in, "Holy, holy, holy." The devilish trinity is represented by 666 in behalf of Satan, the antichrist and the false prophet. Those in that day will probably see the number, just as it is, six-sixty-six, and they will know if they have wisdom, that antichrist has come. And those who know and believe, will be the more ready to resist obedience to the law's demand, because of being forewarned by God.