The Great Tribulation is about to begin on Earth. The Temple
will soon be made desolate. When that happens, the Jewish remnant will heed the
Lord's call from Matt. 24:16 and flee to a place of supernatural
protection as we saw in Rev. 12. When
they do, the target of opportunity will become the so-called Tribulation
Saints, those who've come to faith in the Lord after the Rapture. The anti-Christ's first order of business
after proclaiming himself to be God and setting up his counterfeit religion
will be to shut down this new movement of God's. Since they're scattered all over the place
the best way to do that is to freeze them out of the economy, making it
impossible for them to earn wages or buy life's essentials.
While discussing Job, Satan had chided God, "He only
worships you because you bless him and protect him. Take it all away and he'll
curse you."(Job 1:9-11) Now
he has his man, the anti-Christ, go after the Tribulation Saints the same
way. Deprive them of enough and these
new converts will either turn or die.
Either way, he'll soon be rid of them, or so he thinks.
And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. (Rev 13:1) Having been cast out of Heaven, Satan
stands by the sea, a euphemism for the gentile nations (Daniel
7:2) ready to do his worst on Planet Earth.
The Beast out of the Sea
And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns
and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous
name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear
and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his
throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a
fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished
and followed the beast. Men 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 make war against him?"(Rev. 13:2-4) As the same beasts in Daniel 7 represented Babylon (lion) Persia
(Bear) and Greece
(leopard) it makes sense to see them that way here. The order is reversed because Daniel was
looking forward in time while John was looking back. When Daniel saw Rome, he couldn't compare
it to any animal he'd seen, so he called it a large and terrifying beast. John shows it to be a monster with multiple
heads and horns.
But the personal pronouns indicate a king more than a
kingdom. That means that the charisma of Alexander, the cunning
of Cyrus, and the cruelty of Nebuchadnezzar are all
present in this king. And what's more,
he wields all the power and authority of Satan, even seating himself on Satan's
throne. This monster in the guise of a
man is the anti-Christ, finally revealing his true nature. Having complete
power (10 horns) supernatural wisdom (7 heads) and officially recognized
authority over all (10 crowns) he's set to make the world over in his own
image, and those whose hearts are focused on the things of Earth are loving it. He's apparently come to power through a
botched assassination attempt that's left his right eye blinded and his right
arm withered (Zech. 11:17) The world thought he had died, but here he is
alive. Rumors of his resurrection add to
his aura and are encouraged.
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to
exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme
God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in
heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.
And he 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 book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the
creation of the world. (Rev. 13:5 -8) Having consolidated his power over Earth, and
endearing himself to the Jews by helping them build a Temple,
he now marches into the Holy City to stand in the Temple and declare that he's God in the
flesh, slandering His Name, making His House desolate, and mounting a full sale
attack on remaining believers. We saw the Heavenly reaction to this
declaration. It got him kicked out for
good and signaled the beginning of the Great Tribulation. But on Earth it's different. Every one whose name isn't written in the
Lamb's Book of Life will worship him.
A more literal translation of verse 8 reads, " and
all who dwell on earth will worship it (the beast), everyone whose name has not
been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb
that was slain." It's the version used by the New American Standard and
the English Standard, two of the most literal translations of the Greek. It speaks clearly to the validity of the
doctrine of Eternal Security.
If you're saved, God knew about it before He created the Earth. Prior to
giving Adam his first breath He looked down over the vast span of time and saw
the moment when you would make your independent decision to serve Him. (He
foreknew.) And that's when He made a
reservation for you in His Kingdom, swearing never to blot your name out of the
book. (He predestined.) When the time
was right he spoke to your heart, knowing you'd respond. (He called.) And when you did He cleansed you from all of
your sins, regarding you from that time forward as if you've never sinned at
all. (He justified.) And one day soon He
will give you a new eternal body and a place near Him in His Kingdom. (He
glorified.) (Romans 8: 29-30)
In the context of time you made your own free choice to accept the pardon
the Jesus purchased for you. But having
seen the end from the beginning, He has always known that you would. All your
life He's watched over you, preparing you for your day of decision. And ever since then He's protected you, for
He promised He would never lose any of those He's been given. (John 6:39-40) He knows that it's the shepherd's job to keep
the sheep. And He's the Good Shepherd.
He who has an ear, let him hear. If
anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be
killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient
endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. (Rev. 13:9–10) Again we're told that the Great Tribulation
will not be cut short, but will run the full 3 ½ years ordained for it from
ancient times. Nor will anyone from this
point on be miraculously preserved. The
judgments will come and will run their course.
"Be faithful unto death," He told the Church at Smyrna, "And I will give you the crown
of life." (Rev. 2:10) Like it was at the beginning of Christianity,
so it will be at the end. The penalty
for loving Jesus is death. Let me hasten
to remind you that the Christian Era doesn't end with the Church. There will be Christians on Earth long after
the Church is gone.
The Beast out of the Earth
Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had
two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the
authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its
inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he
performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from
heaven to earth in full view of men.
Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf
of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them
to set up an image in honor of the beast who was
wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the
image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to
worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich
and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his
forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the
name of the beast or the number of his name. (Rev. 13:11-17) We call
this second beast the False Prophet. The
fact that he comes out of the Earth means that he's an ordinary man. His two horns mean that he has the authority
of a witness, testifying to the power of his senior partner, just as John the
Baptist testified about Jesus. He sounds
a lot like the Gentle Jesus of liberal denominations, and performs miracles
like Elijah's, but his words originated in Satan's heart.
He heads up the one world religion, and makes certain that
it's united in its worship of the anti-Christ.
Building a great image of him, he uses supernatural power from the devil
to give it a semblance of life and makes everyone worship it on pain of death.
Because no one can tell if another person is really worshiping or just going
through the motions, he devises a test.
If you're loyal to the anti-Christ and truly worship him, you must agree
to take a mark to prove it. It will not
only demonstrate your sincerity, but allow you to participate fully in
mainstream life without fear. Refusing
it means you're one of those who has given your heart
to Jesus. If you're caught, the penalty
for that is death. And even if you're not, you'll face a nearly impossible
challenge in just staying alive.
This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the
number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. (Rev.
13:18) This verse has been subject to much speculation and incorrect
interpretation because it tells us so little. It says only that the
anti-Christ's number is the number of a man, and that his number is literally
600 and 60 and 6, which may be different from 666. We don't know.
What we do know is that both Biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) gave
numerical values to the letters of their alphabets to compensate for their lack
of a direct numbering system. The Romans used Roman Numerals, assigning
numerical values to a few letters, and today much of the world uses
Hindu-Arabic Numerals, value specific symbols originally developed in the 2nd
century BC but not widely used until several hundred years later.
If (and it's a big if) the numbers six hundred, sixty, and six, are supposed
to signify a name, then the numerical value of the anti-Christ's name would
probably have to equal that amount in its Greek form, Greek being the language
of the Revelation.
I don't think it makes sense to devise a numerical equivalent for the
letters of the English alphabet to figure this out because, outside of certain pagan
religious practices, there's no accepted valuing system for doing so. We've
always used Arabic numerals and so haven't assigned numerical equivalents to
the letters in our alphabet like the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans did.
Some think that the number might apply to something other than his name, his
birthday for instance, or a title of some sort. It could also be a registration
number, like the American Social Security number, or any one of the other
numbers by which we're known in various aspects of our lives.
The big qualifier for the verse is the phrase "let him who has
understanding." To me that disqualifies most of us from even guessing. It
seems that a person would have to have an understanding of the practice of gematria, the calculation of the numerical equivalence of
letters, words, or phrases in Biblical Greek to come up with the answer.
Daniel 12:4 tells us that in the latter days
knowledge will increase. That means that pretty soon someone will crack this
code. Personally, I think it's unlikely that this will happen before the church
The Lamb and the 144,000
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion,
and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their
foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and
like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists
playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the
four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the
144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not
defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the
Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their
mouths; they are blameless. (Rev 14:1-5) In Rev. 7 we saw
that it makes sense to view the 144,000 there just as they're described ...
Messianic Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel, witnessing to the world
after the church is gone. They are the end times
fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 43:10, being witnesses
for the Lord to the nations of Earth during Daniel's 70th week.
Then Who Are These Guys?
Even though it consists of the same number, the 144,000 of Rev
14:1-5 is substantially different. This group is standing on Mt. Zion
and they have the names of both the Father and the Son written on their
foreheads. They are described as having been redeemed from the earth and are
before the Throne of God singing a new song, a song only they can sing. They
are pure and blameless, they've been purchased from
among men, and are offered as first fruits to God and the Lamb.
Hebrews 12:22-24 provides a beautiful
description of this group. "But you have come to Mt.
Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the Living God. You
have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the
Church of the Firstborn whose names are written in heaven. You have come to
God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to
Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a
better word than the blood of Abel."
The similarity is unmistakable. By their location (heaven) their spiritual
state (righteous men made perfect) and their dedication to both God and Jesus
they are reminiscent of a group first seen in Rev. 5 and described as
Kings and Priests. Though it's tempting to see them as the original 144,000,
martyred and in heaven, only one group fits that description ... the Church.
This 144,000 is a sampling of the redeemed, brought to heaven in the rapture of
Rev. 4, and presented as the first fruits of the harvest of souls, just
as the wave offering was the first fruits of the harvest of grain (Lev. 23:9-14).
All the grain was harvested, but only a sample was presented. So it is with the
Church. The 144,000 is not meant to be the full number of raptured
believers, just a sample.
As far as the phrase "defiled themselves with women" is concerned,
it's used to symbolize the worship of idols. Since pagan worship was sexual in
nature, the Lord sometimes described idol worship in sexual terms. (Read Ezekiel
16 & 23 if you dare.) These 144,000 had not done that. In fact they
were found to be totally blameless, further evidence that they're the redeemed
in Heaven. No human on Earth is blameless, and there's no Biblical evidence
that men who remain celibate will receive special rewards.
The Three Angels
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the
eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation,
tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give
him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the
heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water." (Rev 14:5-7)
Notice the tremendous contrast between the preceding view of things in Heaven
and this warning of what's about to befall the Earth. It's the last warning
before the dreaded Bowl Judgments that complete, not begin, God's wrath.
In Matt. 24:14 Jesus promised that the Gospel would
be preached in all the nations before the end of the age. People have
speculated on whether this angel is really satellite TV or something of that
nature, but it doesn't matter. Between the first 144,000, the Tribulation
believers, and this angel His promise has been kept.
A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which
made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries." (Rev.
14:8) This verse speaks of the coming collapse of the one world
church. As we'll see in Rev 17,
the anti-Christ has used this "church" as a means to an end. But now it's time for all
the world to worship him and him alone.
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone
worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on
the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured
full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning
sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of
their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those
who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his
name." This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey
God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the
dead who die in the Lord from now on."
"Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for
their deeds will follow them." (Rev. 14:9-13) A clear warning of the dire consequences for worshipping the
anti-Christ and taking his mark.
What an absolutely untenable spot to be in. Worship God and die now. Worship the anti-Christ and die forever. The
voice from heaven agrees by pronouncing the 2nd of seven blessings
in the Revelation. The first was for
those who read, hear and take to heart what is written in this book. (Rev
1:3) This one is for those who are martyred for their faith during the Great
The Harvest of the Earth
I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and
seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man" with a crown of gold
on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the
temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud,
"Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the
harvest of the earth is ripe." So he who was seated on the cloud swung his
sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. (Rev 14:14-16)
Some want to see this angel as Jesus, because of the phrase "son of
man." To me the biggest argument against this is the fact that he's
wearing a stephanos, or victor's crown like the
Church wears. Jesus wears a diadem or
crown of royalty. But whether he is or
isn't doesn't affect our understanding of the passage. He's being told to begin
the final phase of Earth's judgment.
Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp
sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came
from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle,
"Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's
vine, because its grapes are ripe." The angel swung his sickle on
the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's
wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed
out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600
stadia. (Rev 14:17-20) This passage, like
the one before it, is an overview. It
shows the extent to which Satan will sacrifice mankind to maintain his hold on
Planet Earth. Read Isaiah 63 for a prophecy of this time from the Old
Things are happening pretty fast
now, so John has to keep skipping back and forth between things in heaven and
things on earth, first presenting overviews and then coming back to fill in the
details, to make sure we get it all. The main thought here is to convey the
extent of the carnage. The average
horse's bridle is 4.5 feet off the ground, and 1600 stadia
equal about 175 miles. Imagine a river of blood 4.5 feet deep and 175 miles
long and you get the idea. If you could drive along its length at 30 miles per
hour, it would take nearly 6 hours. Next
time we'll get the detail of the Bowl Judgments.