The Beast is Rising!

The subject of the “Antichrist” raises many questions. Who is he? When will he appear? How will we recognize him? What is his “mark”? In popular culture and preaching, he is a global political leader who uses military and economic might to subjugate other nations and attack Israel in the Middle East. But if Satan is truly clever and cunning, why would he do the very things that so many unsuspecting believers and even nonbelievers expect?

Over the centuries, the Church has heard a multitude of predictions and theories about the “Antichrist.” He has been identified with the Roman emperor, the Pope, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and numerous other political and religious figures. In many cases, excellent arguments were made to support the proposition. Nonetheless, not one of those candidates ever became the world-dominating “Beast from the Sea.”

Dragon Head Rock - Photo by Tiraya Adam on Unsplash
[Photo by Tiraya Adam on Unsplash]

Complicating the matter are the several terms used for this figure in the New Testament. They include “
Antichrist,” “Man of Lawlessness,” and “Beast.” Do they all refer to the same individual? There are few, if any, direct literary links between them in the Bible.

The term “Antichrist” only appears in two of John’s letters, and nowhere in the Book of Revelation. Is it even the correct label for this coming global leader of popular expectation? Are we certain John had the same figure in mind that Revelation labeled the “Beast from the sea” or Paul called the “Lawless one”?

The language used by the New Testament to portray this figure is drawn from the Hebrew Bible, especially the Book of Daniel with its vision of the “Little Horn that was speaking great things.”

But Paul and John do not simply quote the Old Testament. They interpret and reapply key passages in the light of what God has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and often in unexpected ways.

In Revelation, for example, the promise that the Messiah would “rule the nations” with his “iron rod” is modified so that now he “shepherds” the kings and nations of the Earth. The call for the ancient nation of Israel to become a “kingdom of priests” is reapplied to the men from “every nation” who are “redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” – (Exodus 19:5, Revelation 1:4-6, 5:6-12, 12:5).

The task of identifying the “Beast” is complicated. If there is any hope of acquiring the correct understanding, we must seek it in Scripture, not from news headlines or Internet theories. Moreover, the issue becomes more relevant with each passing day. If we fail to heed what Jesus and his Apostles said about the matter, we may find ourselves deceived by the Antichrist, the “Man of Lawlessness,” and/or the “Beast” when he/it does appear.

Even now, the “Beast is ASCENDING from the sea.” When John described this, he used a participle in the Greek present tense, signifying an ongoing action. Thus, he or it is in the process of “ascending” from the Abyss/Sea – (Revelation 11:4-7, 13:1).

The Beast’s “seven heads” are interpreted by Revelation as “seven mountains,” which, in turn, represent seven successive kingdoms, NOT seven concurrent realms. Already, by the first century, five of them had “fallen,” one existed, and the final or “seventh” had “not yet come” - (Revelation 17:8-11).

In Chapter 13, John used the characteristics of Daniel’s “four beasts ascending from the sea” to describe what for him was one entity. In Daniel, the “four beasts” represent four successive kingdoms. However, John saw only one “Beast,” and it incorporated the animal characteristics of Daniel’s four beasts. Moreover, John listed them in reverse order than the Book of Daniel as if he were looking back over the history of world empires from the perspective of the first century.

AN OLD STORY


For that matter, Daniel linked the World Empire of his day to the “Land of Shinar,” the ancient kingdom of the Sumerians where Babylon originated, and the first attempt to unite all peoples under one government and culture - (Genesis 11:1-9, Daniel 1:2).

This is an ancient story. What the Bible pictures is not a one-time event that will only occur just prior to the end of the age. The satanic conspiracy to install a global empire is a history-spanning plan that has been underway since the beginning of human civilization.

Prophecy teachers and preachers who previously identified this beastly system with the Roman Empire or the government of Nazi Germany were not entirely wrong. Past efforts to install regional and global empires were part of this very old process.

So, how do we identify the Empire’s final incarnation, the “seventh kingdom”? We are not completely in the dark. Whether discussing the “Beast,” the “Antichrist,” or the “Man of Lawlessness,” certain characteristics are common in each description.

For example, all three labels are linked to deception and apostasy. Jesus warned about coming “deceivers” who would propagate false information about the “end,” thereby “troubling” many. Their deceptions would cause many to apostatize – “Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” False prophets would arise and employ “great signs and wonders” to deceive “even the elect.”

Likewise, Paul instructed the congregation in Thessalonica not to be “troubled” by disinformation about the “Day of the Lord.” That day would not come until the “Apostasy” and the “revelation of the Man of Lawlessness” occurred. He described the latter as using “lying signs and wonders” to deceive those who refused the “love of the truth.” Likewise, the “False prophet” in Revelation used “great wonders” to cause many to “swear allegiance to the Beast” - (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Revelation 13:11-15).

In his first letter, John called the false teachers in his congregations “antichrists,” forerunners of the final “Antichrist” who would come in the “Last Days.” They were the product of the “Spirit of Antichrist” that was (and is) active in the world already. They were identifiable not by their political activities but by their deceptive activities in the Assembly - (1 John 2:18-22).

When Jesus warned that the “love of many would grow cold” due to “lawlessness,” he was not speaking about humanity in general, but specifically to his disciples. “False prophets” would work to deceive “the elect.”

Similarly, the “Man of Lawlessness” will appear in the “Sanctuary of God,” a phrase Paul applies consistently in his letters to the Body of Christ. John likewise was concerned about the “many antichrists” that were disrupting his congregations. In Revelation, the “Dragon” waged war against the “saints,” “those who had the Testimony of Jesus,” NOT against other nation-states or modern Israel.

MISSING POPULAR IDEAS


Neither Jesus, Paul nor John stated that the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist, or the Beast from the Sea would be a global political leader who waged military campaigns against other nation-states or Israel. Whether he would do so was not their concern. Their focus was on how future events would affect the Body of Christ. Consistently, the New Testament picture is of a figure who deceives and thereby causes believers to apostatize.

Neither John nor Paul assigned any geographical location or limitations to this figure, other than to state that he was in the “world.” The Book of Revelation makes clear that Satan’s effort to destroy the “saints” was, is, and will remain global.

Beach Sunset - Photo by Donald Janssen on Unsplash
[Photo by Donald Janssen on Unsplash]

So, where does this leave us? First, because the rise of the “
Beast” is an ever-present reality and danger, the followers of Jesus must remain vigilant. The threat is real and constant. Second, they must always be on guard against deceptions that originate in the Body of Christ, including if not especially from supposed “prophets” and “apostles.”

Third, since the agents of Satan can employ “signs and wonders” to accomplish their purposes, the manifestation of supernatural miracles is NO guarantee that any individual, church, or ministry is from God.

Fourth, however small it may begin, the Antichrist program will become global in scope, especially as it targets faithful believers wherever they are found. Even if he or it controls governments, he or it will use political power to destroy the true Church.

Ultimately, the “Dragon” is not sending his “Beast” to deceive an already blinded world, but to misdirect, mislead, and cause believers to abandon the “faith of Jesus Christ” and their mission to preach the Good News to the nations. The Devil’s target is the Body of Christ. Only by misdirecting or otherwise deceiving it does he stand any chance of defeating Jesus, or at least postponing his inevitable destruction.



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