************ Sermon on Revelation 13:1-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 18, 2009
"The Beast Out of the Sea"
One of the theologians I had to read and study while in seminary was Oscar Cullman. Oscar lived and taught in Europe during World War II. In his book, "Christ and Time," Oscar uses two terms: D-Day and V-Day.
D-Day or Decision-Day was the day when the Allied forces landed in Normandy and established a beachhead. Those generals with a head for strategy on both sides recognized that the outcome of the war was decided on that fateful day in June 1944. They understood that if the Nazis had driven the Allies back into the sea, they would have won the war. But because the Allied armies prevailed at Normandy, they sealed the eventual doom of the Nazi cause.
V-Day stands for Victory-Day – the day marking the surrender of the enemy and the liberation of Europe.
What happened between D-Day and V-Day? Did the Germans surrender, did they hold up the white flag, did Hitler go into hiding? None of that. Rather, there was many months of suffering and struggle. There were horrendous battles as the Allied armies, little by little, pushed back the Nazi forces.
Oscar Cullman says the Christian is between D-Day and V-Day. The decisive battle has already been fought but Victory-Day has not yet come.
I want to apply this image to Revelation 12 & 13. What happened in Revelation 12? The woman's child was born, snatched into heaven, and seated victoriously on the throne (vs 5). Remember what we said about this – that this summed up the birth, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and crowning of Jesus? Furthermore, we were told that at the same time Satan – the red dragon – was hurled out of heaven (vs 7-9). Revelation 12 tells us about D-Day. This is Decision-Day. On this day the decisive battle has been fought.
According to Cullman, the cross and the grave were God's D-Day. Like the Germans of WW II, Satan knows the war is lost and "his time is short" (Rev 12:12). Does he surrender? Does he wave the white flag? Does he go into hiding? His power has been broken but he is still fighting anyway. D-Day has come but V-Day is not yet here.
This is the important point: Satan has lost but he is still fighting. We see his fight in our Bible reading. I would like to make five observations.
I An Unholy Trinity
A First observation: we see a fake Trinity. Revelation 13 emphasizes three characters: the dragon and his two agents. In Revelation 12 we learned that the dragon is that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan (Rev 12:9). The first agent is the beast out of the sea we meet in verses 1-10 – we discover that he is the antichrist. The second agent is the beast out of the earth we meet in verses 11-18 – we discover he is the false prophet.
What is the relationship between the dragon, the beast out of the sea, and the beast out of the earth? In Revelation 16, we see these three characters work together to do evil (Rev 16:13). And, in Revelation 20, we see that these three characters share a common destiny in the lake of burning sulfur (Rev 20:10).
But we can say more. Verse 2 tells us that the dragon gave the first beast his power and his throne and great authority. Verse 12 says the second beast exercises authority and power on behalf of the first beast.
So, we have a chain. The dragon gives his authority to the first beast. The first beast gives his authority to the second beast. Why all this delegation? The second beast uses his power and authority so people will worship the first beast. And, the first beast uses his power and authority so people will worship the dragon.
Do you know what this resembles? Do you hear what this sounds like? This resembles what John says about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father sends the Son and the Son sends the Spirit. The Son does the Father's work and the Spirit does the Son's work. Why all this delegation? The Spirit glorifies the Son and the Son glorifies the Father. Do you see the resemblance?
What we have in Revelation 13 is nothing less than a counterfeit trinity, an unholy imitation of the triune Godhead.
B Why do I call this an "unholy" trinity? Well, let me ask, what is the purpose of this fake godhead? Let me remind you of how Revelation 12 ends:
(Rev 12:12,17) "... But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." (17) Then the dragon was enraged at the woman [remember?, she represents the church] and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring--those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.Hear all the words like: woe, fury, enraged, make war. The purpose of the fake, but angry, godhead is to destroy the church.
How long will the dragon attempt to destroy the church through the two beasts? According to verse 5, the dragon and his two agents are busy at work for 42 months. Remember the significance of this number? We have said that 42 months equals 1,260 days which equals time times and half a time. And, remember what John has told us about this time?
-42 months is how long the first beast does his awful work (Rev 13:5)
-1,260 days or time, times, and half a time is how long the woman is taken care of in the desert (Rev 12:6,14)
-42 months is how long the Gentiles trample on the holy city (Rev 11:2)
-1,260 days is the length of time during which the two witnesses prophesy (Rev 11:3)
How long does the dragon attempt to destroy the church? For the whole time the church witnesses. For the whole time God guards and protects the church. For the whole time between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. For the whole time between D-Day and V-Day. In other words, right now! The beast is at work right now – which gives us a clue to his identity.
II The Beast is the Image of the Dragon
A Second observation: the beast is the image of the dragon. John, in careful detail, describes the first beast for us as it slowly emerges from the water. First we see the horns – ten of them, with crowns on them. Then we see seven heads – each head with a blasphemous name and therefore claiming to be God Himself. Then we see a body like a leopard – swift to catch prey. It has feet like a bear – with the strength to hold its victims. Its mouth was like that of a lion – ravenous and destructive.
What is John describing for us? To understand the Revelation we need to know the Old Testament. Remember? Students of the Old Testament right away should recognize Daniel 7 here. In Daniel 7 we see four beasts from the sea: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a fourth terrifying beast. The first beast of Revelation 13 is a combination of Daniel's four beasts from the sea. It is a super-beast.
The four beasts of Daniel represent four different world empires: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The four beasts of Daniel represent four different world empires that oppose God and God's people for over 1000 years. Similarly, the super- beast out of the sea in Revelation 13 is a God-opposing, Christ-hating, and church-persecuting power or rule.
The beast is like the dragon – both hate God and Christ and the church.
B We need to pay careful attention to the where of the beast that John sees. John says,
(Rev 13:1) And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea.The dragon stands at the place where sea and land meet. He stands at the seashore to greet the first beast as it rises out of the water.
Why? In the Bible, the sea is the chaotic region from which threat and rebellion arise. The sea is the source of evil and wickedness. The sea is the same as the Abyss from which the beast of Revelation 9 comes.
Now, fast forward with me to Revelation 21 – the picture of the new heaven and new earth. Do you know what is said about the sea in that chapter? John writes, "and there was no longer any sea" (Rev 21:1). John is not saying there no longer are any large bodies of water. John is not trying to teach us about the geography of the new heaven and new earth. Rather, John is telling us there is no home for wickedness and evil, no place for wickedness and evil, no center for wickedness and evil, in the new heaven and new earth.
So, what do we have in Revelation 13? The dragon is on the sea shore. The dragon's beast comes out of the sea. They are both at the same place. The point? The beast is by the dragon in the same way as a dog stays by its master.
C The beast has ten horns and seven heads (Rev 13:1). The dragon has ten horns and seven heads (Rev 12:3). But there is a difference: the beast has crowns on his horns whereas the dragon has crowns on his heads. This tells us something. Crowns are a sign of rule and authority and power. The dragon's crowns are on his head – he has ultimate rule and power and authority. The beast's crowns are on his horns – he rules through brute force. But his is a delegated authority: "The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority." The beast is to the dragon what Jesus is to God. The beast is the dragon's son, the dragon's image-bearer.
III The Beast Imitates the Lamb
A Third observation: John wants us to realize that the beast imitates the Lamb. Listen to what John says:
(Rev 13:3) 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.Here we see why preachers need to know the Greek. John uses the same Greek word to describe the beast that he also uses to describe the Lamb. The beast "had a fatal wound." The Lamb "was slain" (Rev 13:8; cf 5:6). This doesn't sound the same in the English at all but in the Greek it is the exact same word.
Do you see what John is doing? John wants us to draw the connection between the beast and the Lamb. We are to understand that the beast was dead, killed, buried but somehow came to life just like Jesus was dead, killed, buried and came to life.
B When we look at Revelation 13, we see many other connections. Just like Jesus is the image bearer of God, so the beast is the image bearer of the dragon. Just like Jesus wears many crowns (Rev 19:12), so the beast wears many crowns (Rev 13:1). Just like the Lamb receives God's power, God's throne, and God's authority, so too the beast receives the dragon's power, throne and authority (Rev 13:2). Just like the Lamb is worshiped and adored because He died and arose, so too the beast is worshiped and adored because he died and arose (Rev 13:3-4).
C Do you see Satan's plan? The beast is the counterfeit expression of the Lamb. The beast is a replacement for the Lamb. The beast is the antichrist. He is exactly like Christ in so many ways, but he isn't Christ Himself. This is how Satan does his work. Satan loves to imitate the real thing in order to destroy the church.
Satan does this across the board. God is part of a trinity; so is Satan. God sends the Lamb; Satan sends the beast. God has prophets; Satan has the second beast. God's servants do miracles, signs, and wonders; so do Satan's. The list goes on and on. This is what makes Satan so dangerous – he keeps trying to pass off the fake thing as the real thing. And, so often he succeeds – sometimes even with the elect.
D So, who or what is the beast? Let me recap what we have learned so far. He does his work right now, between D-Day and V-Day. He represents godless rule and power. He is the antichrist. We cannot identify him with just one person, one government, one movement, or one power. He is whatever hates and opposes the one true God in every age.
IV The World Follows the Beast
A The four observation. The beast is part of an unholy trinity. The beast is the image of the dragon. The beast imitates the victory of the Lamb. Now notice what happens:
(Rev 13:3-4) The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. (4) Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast ...
The world was "astonished." The world "followed" the beast. The world "worshiped" the beast. But isn't this what the Gospels tell us about Jesus? When Jesus did His miracles, we are told the people were "astonished" (Mt 12:23; Jn 7:21). The Gospels tell us people "followed" Jesus wherever He went (Mt 8:1; 9:27). The wisemen, the disciples, and others "worshiped" Him (Mt 2:11; Mt 28:9).
The world does the same thing to the beast that the church does to Jesus. Do you see what is going on here? The world becomes the church of the antichrist. Just like the church worships and follows the Lamb, so the world worships and follows the beast.
B Notice why the world worships and follows the beast. Not because of his surpassing beauty and glory, not because of his compassion and concern, not because of his purity and moral greatness. Men worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" (Rev 13:4).
The beast is worshiped because it seems invincible. The beast is worshiped because it produces shock and awe. The beast is worshiped because resistance is futile and useless. The people of the world see no alternative to worshiping the beast.
What a difference between Jesus and the beast. Jesus wants our worship because we love Him and He loves us. Jesus wants our worship because we are so grateful about the cross and the grave. The beast doesn't care why he is worshiped just so long as he is worshiped. Whether worship is forced, manipulated, coerced, or done freely makes no difference to him – just so long as he is worshiped and God is NOT worshiped.
That's the goal of the dragon and the beast, isn't it? Divert worship away from God and His Christ. Stop the true worship of the one true God.
V God's Providence
A The fifth observation concerns the providence of God. "Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you. He is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short" (Rev 12:12). Notice the terrible things done by the serpent's beast:
-verse 5 – proud words and blasphemies
-verse 6 – slander God's name and God's dwelling place and the redeemed in heaven
-verse 7 – makes war against the saints
-verse 8 – all the world worships the beast (and the dragon)
The time between D-Day and V-Day is scary. The time between the two comings of Christ is frightening. The dragon and beast seem so powerful, their influence so vast, so it is easy to despair.
But it doesn't have to be this way. You see, buried in our Scripture reading is the teaching of God's providence. Listen to the following phrases:
-the beast "was given" a mouth to utter proud words
-the beast "was given" authority to exercise for 42 months
-the beast "was given" power to make war against the saints
-the beast "was given" authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation
Hear the repetition? "Was given, was given, was given, was given." Everything the beast has, everything the beast does, was given to him. By whom? We are not told. It is a passive verb without a subject.
We have come across this kind of verb many other times in the Revelation. Remember what we called it? We called it the "divine passive." It is God Who is at work. It is God Who is the subject. It is God Who is in control. Not the dragon. Not the beast.
B What does this mean for us as we live between D-Day and V-Day. What does this mean for us as we face the fury of the dragon and the beast?
This means the devil and his beast are on a leash. They can only do what God allows them to do. In fact, they can only do what advances God's purposes and plans.
This also means God has ordained what we experience between D-Day and V-Day. The sufferings that Christians endure for the sake of the Gospel are not accidental (cf vs 9-10). They are part of God's plan.
Finally, this also means that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39) because Jesus is way stronger than the beast! I already said the beast "was given" everything it has. But what "was given" to Jesus? Look through the Revelation – you will see nothing "was given" to the Lamb because it was already His. So, for instance, Jesus took the scroll from God's hands (Rev 5:7) – it was not given to Him. Jesus holds the key to death and Hades (Rev 1:18) – they were not given to Him. Jesus holds the seven golden lampstands representing the churches of Asia Minor and all true churches of all times and all places – they were not given to Him.
One of the things that Jesus has is "the book of life" in which is written the names of His elect, the names of those for whom He died (Rev 13:8). It belongs to Him. It cannot be taken from Him. We are forever safe because He Who wrote our name in the book will never erase our name from the book.
What do I want you to take home with you? You don't need to fear the wicked beast if you belong to the slaughtered Lamb. He is the image of God. His victory is real. He is the One Who alone is worthy of our worship. He is the One who has written your name in the book of life. In Him, D-Day surely becomes V-Day.
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