In chapter 13 we have the clear and full development of Satan's instruments
of evil. They are two- the ten-horned and the two-horned beasts. To the
first the dragon, who swept with his tail a third part of the stars to
earth, Satan under the form of the Roman Empire, gave his throne and much
authority. [see note #15]
The second not only wielded the first power administratively before him,
but was the active power of evil to lead men to recognize the first, and
therein the dragon. The beast is the original Roman Empire, but largely
modified and in a new character. It has perfect completeness in its forms
of government or heads but is composed of ten kingdoms, indicating also, I
doubt not, imperfect administrative completeness. It has not twelve horns;
it is incomplete. Seven would be completeness of a higher kind. The Lamb
had seven horns; the woman, twelve stars on her head. One is perfectness in
itself; the other administratively in man. Seven is the highest prime
number (you cannot make it); twelve, the most perfectly divisible, composed
of the same elements, but multiplied, not added as a simple number. So four
is finite perfection, as is a square and still more a cube, perfectly the
same all ways but finite. But the beast had names of blasphemy. It was the
open enemy of God and His Christ. It absorbed the previous empires and
represented them. The dragon, Satan's direct power in the form of the
heathen Roman Empire, gave his throne and power to this new beast. It was
not of God. God owned no power on the earth now the assembly was gone, till
He took His own. The earth was at war with Him.
One of the beast's heads (I doubt not the Imperial) was seen as wounded to
death, but healed. The Imperial head was restored and the world was in
admiration; and they worship the dragon as giving the beast his power.
Nothing in their eyes equals the beast; but God is wholly thrown out in the
earth. The beast is given to have the greatest pretensions in his language
and outrage against God. He blasphemed God, His name and dwelling-place,
and the heavenly saints-all Christianity, and the God of it. The dragon had
been cast out from heaven; the raptured saints had been received there. He
blasphemed, but could only blaspheme them.
As regards those who dwelt on earth (for the division was not merely a
spiritual one now), all worshiped the beast, save the elect-those who had
been written from the foundation of the world in the Lamb's book of life.
Human resistance by force was not the path of obedience. Here the patience
and faith of the saints were shewn. He who took the sword would perish by
it; it is never Christ's way, but unresisting patience; but the beast who
did would perish. This then was the imperial power, a blasphemous power set
up by Satan, with the place of the old Roman Empire, which represented all
four, modified in form, but the imperial head restored.
But there was a second beast; it rose not out of the mass of peoples (the
sea) to be an empire, but out of the already formed organization with which
God had to say as such. It had the form of Messiah's kingdom on earth, two
horns like a lamb; but it was the direct power of Satan. He who with a
divinely taught ear heard it speak heard the voice of Satan at once. All
the power of the first beast it exercises before it; is, with its power,
its minister, and makes the earth and the dwellers on it worship it (that
is, the Roman Empire restored to its head). It is Antichrist, the false
Christ of Satan, who subjects the earth to the Satanic Roman Empire. He
does great wonders, as to give men as good proof of the beast's title
before men, as Elijah did of Jehovah's. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2, where
the man of sin gives the same proofs if lying ones, that Jesus did of being
the Christ. He deceives the dwellers on earth by his miracles, making them
set up an image to him. This image he gives breath to; so that it speaks
and causes those to be killed who do not worship it. All likewise were
obliged to take the stamp and the mark of the beast's service in their
work, or open profession, and no man was allowed to traffic who had not the
name of the beast as a mark.
Such is the power which has the character of Messiah's kingdom in its form,
is animated with the fullest energy of Satan, and, recognizing the public
power which Satan had set up in the world, will have every one bow to it,
none to traffic without acknowledging it. And all will, save the elect. The
anti-priestly power of Satan in the heavens is over; royalty and prophecy
as yet remain to him, in opposition to Christ who has not yet appeared.
These he assumes but he does not and cannot set aside the power of the
Gentiles-that remains for Christ to do- but sets it up as his delegate;
and, as the apostate Jews of old, so now that people, save the elect
remnant, as his instruments bow to it and minister to it. Thus you have all
Satan's power exercised. But, in setting up his Messiah, he is obliged to
deceive; and advances by his miracles of deceit what he cannot set
aside-the Gentile power; and subjects the Jews to idolatry and to the
Gentiles; and all the Gentiles themselves dwelling on the earth to the
depository of Satan's authority -the first beast.
This is a singular state of things, far from Jewish feelings and modern
Gentile hopes; but the unclean spirit of idolatry is to return to his
house. Signs, not truth, will govern the superstitious mind of man; they
will be given up to believe a lie. Here, though he takes the character of
Christ in his kingdom, it is chiefly his action on the Gentiles which is
spoken of; the Jews are mixed up with them, as we see in Isaiah 66 and
Daniel. It is a liberal time, but one of most complete tyranny as regards
all who do not bow to Satan's power and the ordinances established by him.
What characterises it is the absence of truth.
As regards the number of the beast, I have no doubt that it will be very
simple to the godly, when the beast is there, and the time of spiritually
judging it comes, and that name will practically guide those who have to do
with him. Till then, the speculations of men are not of much value;
Irenaeus's old one of "Dateinos" is as good as any.