#33 The Unholy Trinity
As we approach chapter 13 we have a bit of a discrepancy between translators. The Interlinear Greek to English Bible actually has a verse 18 in chapter 12 which reads almost the same as verse 1 in chapter 13.
I said almost. Notice (Chapter 13:1) which reads in the NKJV, “Then I stood on the sand of the sea.” The NAS and the Greek both read, “And he stood on the sand of the seashore. It is a discrepancy of manuscripts. Most manuscripts however hold to the “he” translation. And this seems to fit the context. Notice what verse 17 of chapter 12 says: 17 “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
This last verse of chapter 12 speaks of the dragon going off to wage war against the people of God; but he is not working alone. Like all evil men he believes in strength in numbers. Wicked men believe that if they can just get enough people on their side they will win the day. Hitler did this. He worked for years to persuade the German public to come over to his side. And they did! And Hitler took over as absolute ruler of Germany. And he led them down the road to ruin, all the while promising them a German utopia, a ‘man made’ paradise.
This is the motif that the dragon uses. And so he goes to the sea to call forth his first helper. John, speaking as an eyewitness to the vision says, “And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, (the sea represents the nations of the world. (Isa 17:12) tells us “Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!” Another passage speaks of the world casting up filthy foam like an angry sea. The world is an ugly place and the desires of the world are ugly as well.
Think back to the children of Israel. They had been established in the land of Canaan but continued to go through the revolving door of the sin cycle. That is, they would obey the Lord for a while and then when things were going well they would turn aside to idolatry.
God would send one of the nations they had refused to cast out, to punish them for their sinfulness. Then they would come to their senses and cry out to God for forgiveness and He would send a deliverer. And remember that at this time, He, God Almighty, was their King!
Now it was at one of these times of the winding down of the sin cycle that I am referring to here. Samuel the Prophet was the judge of Israel, serving concurrently with Samson. It was shortly after Samson had died killing several thousand of the Philistines that the Israelites repented and they, with Samuel, met at Mizpah for a national repentance. The Philistines heard of it and sent the army to deal with these pesky Israelites once and for all.
But God defended Israel and so devastated the Philistines that they never came back during Samuel’s lifetime.
In the wake of this incredible victory, the people looked around at the other nations and said to Samuel: “We want a king like the other nations around us.” What they were really saying was, “We don’t want God to reign over us anymore. We want to be like the other nations of the world. We want to trust in man and make flesh our strength.” Their hearts had turned away from God, and quickly too!
And God gave them a king, like the kings of the other nations. Saul had the same mindset, the same desires, the same greed and the same god…Satan!
Now consider our world today. The world hates God and is more vocal about their hatred every day. Any mention of God in the public square is met with sneers and threats of lawsuits. The world has the same mindset as the Israelites; they don’t want God reigning over them. They want to be free to live their own lives as they see fit! And they don’t need a bunch of religious ‘do’s and don’ts, or a bunch of religious, Bible thumping bigots running around making them feel guilty about what they’re doing!
Like backsliding Israel, they are calling for an earthly king to deliver them from all of their problems; like religious bigots, and make everything right; according to their standards. But like Israel they will get exactly what they asked for, a godless, heartless, wicked, self-centered, demonic man who will lay waste to their beloved world! I believe we see this in verse 1 of chapter 13. A beast rises up out of the masses. Look at the imagery used here to portray him. He is described as “having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
I want you to turn now to the book of Daniel to see something that may give us some insight into John’s vision. In (Daniel 7:1-7) God gives Daniel a glimpse into the future. It says; “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. 2 Daniel spoke and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. Again we are given this illustration of the sea, representing the world. Out of the troubled world four successive kingdoms arose to conquer. They are represented as four beasts.
And remember that this vision speaks of the same thing as the vision that Nebuchadnezzar had. Remember the statue that he saw with the head of gold, the chest and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, his lower legs of iron and the feet of iron mixed with clay. These different sections each represented kingdoms; Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and the Roman Empire.
And so we see in verse 3 the kingdoms of this world illustrated. “And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4 The first was like a lion, the lion is known as the king of beasts and Babylon was a kingdom of kingdoms. It ruled with a rod of iron!
We read further, and it had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
It is also interesting how this speaks of the judgment on Nebuchadnezzar’ Remember that he had been driven out of his palace, (his wings were plucked) his hair grew like eagle’s wings and his fingernails like bird claws. He was given a heart of a beast and ate grass like an ox until he acknowledged that God is the ruler of the kingdoms of men. Then his mind was restored to him; (he was made to stand on his feet and given a man’s heart.) So this first beast represents Babylon. But all bad things must come to an end. Judgment fell upon Babylon in the form of the next beast.
We read in verse 5 “And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, this beast represents the combined kingdom of the Medes and the Persians who conquered Babylon under Cyrus the Persian. We are told; and it raised up itself on one side, that is, one side was higher than the other because the Persians were greater than the Medes…and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: According to some commentators these three ribs represented three kingdoms conquered by the Medes and the Persians; Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt, So this great beast arose and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. Like a bear, this combined army was a monster, a lumbering colossus with towering strength which rolled over its enemies.
6 “After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the Greek Army under Alexander was an amazing war machine. It moved with lightning swiftness like a leopard. The four wings also speak of the speed of Alexander’s conquests. In fact, many times a country would hear of Alexander’s approach and immediately go out and surrender, so fearful were they of this man. He actually conquered all of Asia, much of Europe, part of Africa and even some of India; all in just eleven short years!
Continuing in verse six we see that the beast had also four heads; these were Alexander’s four generals; Ptolemy, Seleucus, Philippus, and Antigonus…and dominion was given to it that is, to the kingdom of the Greeks. Alexander died at the age of 33, some say out of boredom. He broke down and cried because there were no more kingdoms to conquer.
As he lay dying he appointed these men, Ptolemy, Seleucus, Philippus, and Antigonus as his hand-picked successors to his kingdom. The fact that there were four heads speaks of the fact that he had split his kingdom into four regions, had appointed these men to their respective regions and the fact that they reigned in their appointed regions at the same time.
7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
This beast is Rome, the iron kingdom; a monster, which could not be compared to any beast, because there was no beast that was even comparable. Horns represent power and as this had ten, it signifies great power.
Remember also the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision and you see how uniform the word of God is. He gives different illustrations of the same vision to emphasize the certain-ness of it’s coming to pass. And this prophesy has a double meaning as it also refers to the time of the end. And so there is some credence in what bible scholars say when they refer to a revived Roman empire.
In our text we saw that the beast has seven heads and ten horns. Notice now in verse 2 “Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. How interesting! This king, it seems, would have characteristics of all the kingdoms that we have just seen!
Now there are ‘prophesy teachers’ out there who say that the Roman Empire will be revived and that indeed it already has been through the auspices of the European Common Market. This group of nations, also referred to as the United States of Europe, has many of the nations in it that were part of the Roman Empire of old. But this assumption is not really a stretch since the Roman Empire was HUGE! They encompassed much of the European, and Asian world. And most of these nations are still around today.
Now my assumption is that because the beast encompasses all the characteristics of the 4 kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, that he and his kingdom will resemble them, that is, be a conglomeration of what he thinks is the best of each kingdom. That’s just an assumption. And this must take into account that the beast will be a real person.
Remember that some say the beast is merely a state of mind. But Paul seemed to think him to be a real person. He knew many antichrists, Nero for one. And in this letter he was trying to quell the fears of some who were hearing, as we hear in every age, that Jesus has already come and we’ve been left behind.
And so notice what he says in (2Th 2:3) “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, the Greek word here is Apostasia which speaks of a falling away, a defection; a deliberate abandonment of a formerly professed position, allegiance, or commitment. This term is used to refer to military, political or religious rebellion.
So what does he mean? Who is going to fall away and from what? Some people say this speaks of the “rapture”, a departure from this planet by all the Christians in the world. But the context points to religious defection. Now we know in this world that there is always rebellion against God and the things of God. And we have seen in our lifetime, an increase in the hatred of, and opposition to the things of God. We see people every day trying to erase the name of Jesus from the public square.
But it seems that what we have here is a departure from, a renunciation of a former profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Even though there have always been times gradual declension, corruption, and departure from the true faith, no apostasy of this magnitude has occurred in the history of the church, which could answer Paul’s description of The Apostasy.
What Paul is speaking of is the last days when the love of many will grow cold, when evil will be so rampant in a way that has not been seen since the days of Noah. And into this scene of darkness, where evil is called good, and darkness is called light, this great falling away, this great exodus from light and truth, Paul says…and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”
The world will have been prepared for this day of darkness, this hour of evil. Men hate the light and will not come to the light so as to be saved. And sinful men, I believe, are praying for a savior who will save them from Jesus, from righteousness, from holiness; from all that is good. And onto the scene will step the appointed man of the hour, the beast.
How would you like to have a beast reigning over you? The Greek word here is Therion. The beast, the antichrist will be an animal, a wild animal, a wild beast, a brutal, bestial man: savage, ferocious. This is what sinful man wants. He wants such a person, or so he thinks. This is the type of savior that mankind is looking for; one who will allow them to indulge in all of their evil, sinful, sensual habits.
Look now to the end of verse 2 where we read; “The dragon the devil gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. Here is the power behind the throne of the antichrist. It is the same power that was behind Hitler’s throne. In one of his early private journals he wrote, “This evening I have made a covenant with Satan.” And we saw what the devil wants to do to this world. Through Hitler he laid waste to whole countries. His program was one of genocide. And people want to follow such a being who only wants to kill, to steal and to destroy. Why? Because this is what is in the heart of man. His only thoughts are evil continually. Unless God gives them new hearts, they are full of murder and envy and strife and all those things we see in Romans chapter 1. It’s not a pretty sight is it!
One more thought concerning the beasts ten horns. It says that there were crowns on the horns. Scholars say that they are on the horns and not on the heads which speaks of the beasts’ subservience to the devil. They refer to kings in years gone by who delegated authority to vassals and gave them crowns to wear. These vassal kings would wear hoods and put the crown on their hoods because they were only exercising the authority of the kings to whom they were allied with. It is the same with the beast. “The dragon the devil gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
In verse 3 we have one of those ‘fun’ sections. It says “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. According to many who were living in 1963, JFK was the antichrist because he was catholic.
When he was shot in the head and killed, they proclaimed that he would rise from the dead and destroy the world.
What is really happening here? Who knows! Some say that the antichrist fakes his death and is ‘resurrected.’ All this is done as a lying wonder to cause people to believe in him. If this is the case it works for we read… “And all the world marveled and followed the beast. Now see a picture of the great falling away. The world follows after the beast because they have been deceived by his lying wonders. And they go further than that. They become devil worshipers. Verse 4 tells us as much…”So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
How simply are men deceived! Just show a little magic and they fall all over themselves trying to demonstrate their ‘love and devotion.’ As I said earlier, men hate God and anything that is good and righteous. And they love evil. They jump on any bandwagon that swings by with a new twist on how to practice evil. As they love to rail against God they will love the speeches of the antichrist. Verse 5 tells us “And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.
Big words! Just like every other ‘antichrist’ that ever existed, this one will talk tough. But the day will come when all that tough talk will come to an end. He will be allowed by God, to continue for a short time. And on God’s appointed day he will come and cast this beast and the dragon and the false prophet, (we haven’t gotten to him yet) into the lake of fire where he will be punished for all eternity. The days ahead may seem dark and dismal. And we know from the scriptures that things are going to get worse. But we have a hope that cannot be quenched. As the song says, “We have this hope, though our hearts may still ache, just one shout from above and we all will awake, and in the reunion of joy we will see; death will be swallowed in sweet victory.”
The day is coming; and we may be alive to see it, when Jesus Christ will return to bring us home. This is what all true believers are praying for! We are looking for a new home in the heavenlies. We are pining for an end of sin and wrong. And because of what Jesus has done for us, we will see that day.
We know that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us and will one day come to bring us home to be with Him. And we are looking forward to that day with hope and joy in our hearts; “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1Co 2:9) Though we have looked at a lot of dark and troubling things this morning, we know Who holds tomorrow. We know who directs all things. And He who holds all things together said that no one could ever separate us from Him! The unholy trinity will only do that which God allows for they are merely tools in the hands of the Holy Trinity! God is in control and God will triumph. The outcome is not in doubt. He will triumph for He is King of kings and Lord of lords.