Read This Week: Revelation 13
The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, to receive a mark on their right hands or foreheads so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. – Revelation 13:1-4, 16-17 NIV
Chapter 13 continues to unfold the narrative of the evil trio of Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet. It isn’t easy to read this portion of Scripture and not be unnerved at the depths of depravity and the notion that God will allow the enemy to unleash his fury and wreak havoc on the earth and all the people who dwell on it. We saw last week that the devil is ultimately not strong enough to overcome the mighty power of God and that he will meet his eternal demise, but the words of verses 7-8 should humble and touch us when it says this about the beast which the dragon empowers:
It was given the power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain.
That passage reads like something from a Tolkien novel or a Marvel movie. But no science fiction or fantasy writer could truly capture the horror of this part of the tribulation. The idea of the Antichrist possessing the power to wage war against God’s people, conquer them, and have authority over every nation is beyond the finite imagination. He will begin his reign in unifying peace and end it in unimaginable evil and plundering.
Furthermore, another beast (false prophet) will rise, and as verses 12-13 tell us, he will exercise all the authority of the first beast on its behalf and make the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast. The third beast will perform great signs, even causing a fire from heaven to come to the earth in full view of the people, similar to what the two witnesses of God had done before him. This false prophet will also be the one to force all people to receive the infamous mark of the beast, also known as the number 666. It will be a harrowing time for the world, yet they will inconceivably worship the evil trinity.
The beast will be formidable in his time, but he nor the third beast will be able to overcome The Lamb. In this sense, and for all time, the Lamb of God will win over the beast that resembles a leopard but has feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. These foreshadowed events that John captures for us are similar to current times. The spirit of AntiChrist is alive and pervasive in the world, and Christ-followers must not be a part of it, be deceived by it, or succumb to its allure. We must be faithful to Jesus while avoiding false worship and staying on God’s mission to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person. They need it now and will need it then.