INDUCTIVE STUDIES ON REVELATION
A Sweeping History of the Conflict Between God and Satan
Part Two: The Beast (Antichrist)
13 And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. 14 aND the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, in order that she might fly into the wilderness to a place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15 And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
1 And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. And 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. 2 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. 3 And 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; 4 and they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?" 5 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. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 And 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. 8 And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10 If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.
In the first part of this sweeping history of the conflict between God and Satan we saw (1) that the conflict at the end of history actually began at the beginning of time, (2) that Christ has inflicted a major defeat upon Satan at the cross, and (3) that the universal people of God represented by Eve and Mary are always safe.
The scene now shifts to the end of human history which is seen in the events of John's day. John rightly views what is going on in his time as being the events of the last day, right before Christ returns. Although Christ did NOT return as soon as John (and Paul) expected, what was going on in their day gives us great insight into what will happen at the end of history right before Christ does return.
THE DRAGON/SERPENT PURSUES THE CELESTIAL WOMAN (12:13-17)
Having failed to destroy the woman's Son (the one promised to Eve in Gen. 3:15), the dragon now resumes his assault on the woman herself. At this point it is tempting to try to examine each detail in this episode and trying to find a meaning for each detail. Before attempting that, let's look at the details themselves. How does the celestial woman escape from the dragon (12:14)?
Where does the woman flee to for safety and how long does she stay there (12:14)?
How does the dragon try to destroy the woman now that she has fled into her safe place (12:15)?
Why doesn't this work (12:17)?
There is a scene in The Lord of the Rings and another in Prince Caspian which people loved but didn't take all that seriously--the trees coming to life and attacking the enemies of the good. Well, this same kind of situation is occurring here in v. 17. The earth itself is participating in protecting the celestial woman. Is the earth alive? Do trees come to life and attack the enemies of God? I sincerely doubt it; however, John, Tolkien, and Lewis are pointing to the same biblical theme--God uses His creation in protecting His people and in punishing His enemies. This will become even more evident when we study the wrath God pours out upon His enemies.
It is at this point that many of our "more learned" Christian thinkers jump in and claim that nature is never God's instrument of wrath. For example, whenever Katrina hit New Orleans many Christians immediately responded that God was not bringing judgment down upon N.O. If you said He was, then you were supposed to be a religious bigot.
Well, the truth is that I don't know if Katrina was God's judgment upon N.O. That is up to the people of N.O. and God to decide that (actually it is up to God to decide that!). But I do know that the Bible teaches (as here) that God does use nature to discipline His people and to bring judgment upon those who reject Him. To deny that is to deny a major principle found in Scripture itself. It may not be politically correct; however, it is biblically correct. You choose which side of "correct" you want to fall on.
Does the dragon give up now that he can't destroy the celestial woman and her kingly son (12:17)?
So what about the details? What does the river represent? What does the wilderness represent? I think that it is best to leave these details alone and just accept the truth they are pointing to. John and others use fantasy in order to discuss what goes on behind the human scene, things which we can't describe adequately with human language. The point is that as hard as Satan may try to destroy Christ, the armies of heaven, and the fountain of God's people (the celestial woman), he will never, no never succeed. John's description in these verses simply gives us a dramatic picture of the struggle going on in the spiritual realm and the utter frustration Satan faces in this struggle.
Having failed to destroy the celestial woman--the fountain of God's people, the dragon changes his tactics. Although he will not be able to destroy the woman nor her Son who will rule the nations, there is one group he can persecute. Who make up that group (12:17)?
Now begins the great tribulation of the followers of Jesus Christ.
Whatever else this passage does, it urges us to put our tribulations in a broader context. The troubles we experience in this life are not personally directed against us. When it is all said and done, Satan doesn't ultimately care about you or me. He cares about the child born to the woman. When he couldn't take out the Son, he went after the mother. When he failed in his attempt to destroy her, he now goes to her other children, the followers of her great Son, Jesus.
THE DRAGON'S MAIN WEAPON IN HIS FIGHT AGAINST THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS--THE ANTICHRIST (13:1-10)
Chapter 12 seemed to take place in the spiritual realm, a realm impossible to describe in human language. Because human language cannot describe the spiritual realm adequately, John resorted to the language of the fantastic to describe the events in that realm. Now he turns his attention to what is going on here on earth with the followers of Jesus. Although John continues to use symbolic language to convey his message, the details in the symbols actually have meanings we can relate to and understand and explain because these events and these persons are human events and human persons.
Satan is part of another realm, a spiritual realm. Because he is now turning his attention to the human realm, he summoms forth a human associate who will carry out his mission of destroying the followers of Jesus here on earth. The dragon stands on the seashore waiting for the emergence of a certain creature, his associate, the Antichrist. Describe this creature in your own words (13:1-3).
What do the different symbols describing the Beast refer to?
How does the Beast use his mouth (13:5 AND 6)?
How long is the Beast allowed to operate (13:5)?
Not only does the Beast wage war against the saints, the followers of Jesus, how successful is he in this war (13:7)?
How much authority is given to him during his 42-month reign of terror (13:7)?
Who will worship this Beast (13:8)?