I have to confess that I’m really reluctant to talk about today’s subject. As soon as I say the word “Antichrist,” everyone’s ears perk up because they think we’re going to speculate on who he is or when he’s going to show up. No, that’s not what we’re even going to approach. Instead, we’re going to examine this passage as a continuation of a pattern that Satan’s been doing for a very very very long time, in fact since the beginning of human history.
Now, I do need to lay some cards on the table and say that I do believe that the book of Revelation is mainly set in the future. I don’t think it was completely fulfilled in the 1st century; I mostly think prophecy tends to fall into the “partially fulfilled now/completely fulfilled later” pattern. For example, I think that Amos 9:11-15 was partially fulfilled in the early days of the church, and it’ll be completely fulfilled when the Messiah returns.
I think that throughout history, Satan has been doing something, holding to a certain pattern, but in the final days before Christ returns he’ll perform the ultimate expression of what I’m about to talk about.
What’s this pattern I keep alluding to?
Counterfeiting something that God’s done.
Let’s take a look at what the three main actors in today’s passage do:
· The Dragon is the one who initiates all of this. He’s the one who gives the “Beast” all the authority and power he needs to accomplish what he’s doing. The Dragon’s the ultimate object of worship (vs. 4). This is a copy of God the Father, who’s the One who initiated the plan to redeem us, who gave his Son power and authority, and who’s the One on the Throne before whom we bow and to whom we pray.
· But the Beast is the one who gets a lot more attention in today’s passage. As opposed to our Lord Jesus, he comes up from the sea instead of down from Heaven. Like Jesus' relationship with the Father (e.g. here), the Beast receives his authority from the Dragon, and he’s the immediate object of worship. He has horns on his head just like the Lamb (in Rev. 5), representing power and strength. John uses the exact same verbiage in describing the Beast’s worshipers as he does in his heavenly vision we looked at a couple of days ago: Everyone from every “tribe, people, language and nation” who doesn’t belong to the Lord is ipso facto a worshiper of the Beast (in the end, fence-sitting is entirely unsustainable). And here’s the real kicker: The Beast has a supposedly fatal wound, which had been healed, apparently Satan’s version of the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord.
· And finally we come to the 2nd Beast, and it’s pretty obvious whom he’s copying. He speaks the words of the Dragon to all the world, and makes everyone worship. . .not himself, but the 1st Beast (just like the Spirit doesn’t draw attention to himself but to Jesus). He performs miracles in order to lend legitimacy to the “ministry” of the 1st Beast, including sending down fire from Heaven (just like the Spirit). He breathes “life” where there was none, and as a final clue he marks all those who belong to the 1st Beast with a mark of ownership.
So what’s my point here? Yes, I happen to think that the ultimate fulfillment of this will happen in the future. But Satan has been following this MO since the beginning. Right off the bat, all of his lies are God’s truth alloyed with just a bit of error, which would be the only lies which get anywhere. God gives us Law which is “holy, righteous, and good,” and the Deceiver gives us legalism and the Pharisees. God gives us the beautiful gift of human sexuality to bind together husband and wife, and Satan gives us all types of sexual perversions. God gives us human creativity as part of his blessed image he stamped us with, and the Devil leads us into inventing new ways of doing evil.
This is even displayed in the Bible’s term “Antichrist.” When people see this term, they think that it means “Anti-” as in “against,” which is the standard usage. However, the word “anti” in the Greek means “instead of.” Yes, he’s secretly opposed to Christ and all he stands for, but that’s not the way he’s going to come across. There were lots of “antichrists” in John’s day, but they weren’t claiming to be opposed to Jesus. No, they just claimed to be the true Messiah, and they were precursors to the Great Antichrist to come.
This leads me to two very important applications:
1) Satan never creates anything. He’s the ultimate parasite. All he can do is take something that the Lord’s already created and pervert it or twist it. Think about it: Every sin you can think of is something that God’s created but which Satan is offering in the wrong time, way, or circumstances.
2) We need to be on guard, because his main weapon is deception. Yes, sometimes he’ll oppose us with brute force, but that’s usually his last resort, not his favorite method. He’ll take something that the Lord's created that’s good and twist it just a liiiiiittle bit. Using the Scriptures and the Spirit’s guidance, we have to be on guard in every age against his lies and counterfeits, whichever form they happen to take today.
Let me end this passage on a word of hope that you might have missed. This is a very negative passage, and if all you had was today’s reading, you’d likely end up pretty depressed. But even in these verses--in which it appears that Satan is on top, that his plan is going forward without a hitch, and that the “good guys” are on the losing side--appearances can be deceiving. You have to look for the glimmer of hope, but it’s there. Take a closer look at vs. 5-7 and don’t miss these clues: “[It] was given. . .for forty-two months. . . it was given power. . . it was given authority. . .” Who’s giving this Beast this power and authority? Well, it’s given authority directly from the Dragon, but do you think the Dragon would give its servant authority for only 42 months? No. Ultimately it’s the Lord who has all this under control. The Lord is the One who’s setting the boundaries and maneuvering the Dragon into accomplishing the Divine plan, just like he always has. To all appearances, it looks like the Dragon’s the one in charge, but he only goes forward as far as the Father’s leash lets him.
There’s lot of good application here, so I’ll leave to you.
Father God, you’re in charge, and I’m not, and Satan’s not. Give me eyes to see right through his lies, and help me to listen only to my Shepherd’s voice. Please.