The Two Beasts of Revelation 13; Satan’s Master Delusion
Ken Rudge, St. Austell, England
We are living in unnerving times. Daily our society produces items of news that provide us, as believers, with an ever deepening concern regarding just where we are heading and what will be next. Perhaps one of the most fearful things, has been the way in which progress in scientific knowledge has enabled men to control and manipulate things that previously they could not. The phrase 'acting like God' is used frequently to describe these situations and it is well to note that the first time man was tempted to act like God, and chose to do so, he reaped the awesome consequences of the Fall, Gen. 3, 5.
Look at just a few instances. Control of life in fertility treatment, cloning of offspring, gene manipulation in the unborn; control in death by the abortion of the unborn, euthanasia of the dying, and the prolongation of life beyond normal expectations; control of time experienced in the speed and use of internet communications, and food controls demonstrated in genetically engineered plant life. Add to this the recent manifestations in the physical world of unparalleled natural disasters, the unrest amongst the nations of the world, the continuing insecurity of the Middle East, the closer union of countries belonging to the old Roman Empire, the enormous increase in idolatrous religions and resorting to the occult, the potential catastrophe of 'the millennium bug', and we have ready fuel for the onset of the events of which Scripture has long forewarned us as being evidences of the last times, Matt. 24. 1 -28, 1 Tim. 4. 1-3.
But, Christians beware! Too often in the past prophets of doom have stepped out in such times to delude a gullible Christian public, and with their extreme interpretations produced panic and fear amongst God's people. In making unsustainable claims and wild predictions, they have done great damage to the cause of the gospel, leading many astray and bringing dishonour to the Lord's Name.
This was the case for the Thessalonian believers in their troubled times. They too had become shaken in mind and confused by supposed supernatural revelations, false teaching, and a fake letter purporting to have come from the apostle Paul. All these influences asserted that they were going through the horrific afflictions of the Day of the Lord, 2 Thess. 2. 1-2. Paul uses this second letter to re-establish carefully their confidence and to correct their misunderstanding. He explains those essential indicators that God has put in place, so that they could discern rightly the signs that signal the onset of these final events. What were these indicators and what should we expect to see, as these dramatic and final scenes seem to be so near to our own times? What will take place before the Lord Jesus returns with His saints to reign?
Firstly, the Western World will be dominated by two men who are raised up by Satan, Rev. 13. The first of these will have political power, vv. 1-8, and the second religious power, vv. 11-17. Satan himself will complete this trinity of evil, and will dominate these final dramas. Being cast clown to the earth by God, he will use these men to effect his final attempt to rule the world, Rev. 12. 7-9; 12-13.
Secondly, the political man, welcomed and received by the Western nations as being the super-human answer to their many problems, will rise immediately to total power, Rev. 13. 4, 7. Supported by the religious man, who presents himself as the Messiah, but is in fact the Anti-Christ, he will deceive the nation of Israel and bind them into a treaty which he will break in the middle, Dan. 9. 27.
Thirdly, the onward course of these men to seize power and to exterminate those of the nation of Israel that will not subject themselves to them, will be halted by the appearing in glory and power of the Lord Jesus. Surrounded by His accompanying armies, He will then set up His kingdom and remove them from the world. They will be sent immediately to their eternal place of judgement in the lake of fire, 2 Thess. 1. 7-10; Rev. 19. 11-21.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul seeks to put the minds of the believers at rest about these issues by carefully detailing some of the most important facts. Ignorance in these matters is fuel for confusion. Notice:-
(1) the manner of the appearance of these men. This will be in the form of a manifestation, 2 Thess. 2. 3, 8. That is, they will not become obvious until they are 'unveiled' to take their place at the centre stage of affairs.
(2) their character. Although not as clearly distinguished as in Revelation 13, it is evident thai Paul's descriptions in this chapter do cover both individuals. They will be:- deceivers, v. 2; and blasphemers, v. 4; satanically controlled and empowered, v. 9; wickedly evil men with no moral standards to control their behaviour (this is why they are called, 'man of sin', v. 3, and 'wicked one', v. 8); anti-God and idolatrous in their aspirations they seek to be the objects of men's worship, v. 4.
(3) their course and ultimate destiny. Having achieved optimum political and religious supremacy through the power provided by Satan himself, they will then seek the wider objectives of their master's programme, which is total world domination, v. 9. However, they are destined to eternal punishment, and this is indeed their end, v. 8. The Lord Himself will cast this evil pair into the place of their final judgement, Rev. 19. 20.
Our knowledge and expectancy of these events will form part of our protection from the fears and anxieties that are generated by the happenings we see in the world around us. However, we need to understand that none of these things can ever begin to happen apart from there having been certain prerequisites met. Firstly, there will be a falling away, v. 3. The word used for this is 'apostasy', and it is only used in an evil sense; so this 'falling away' (from divine standards) must be of gigantic proportions (because there has always been a degree of departure), and in every sphere of man's relations with God. See again 1 Tim. 4. 1-3.
Secondly, there will be the removal of the two restraints that currently serve to hold back this downward process which is called the 'mystery of iniquity', vv. 6-7. These verses identify both a system, 'that', and a person 'he', as being the restraints. The 'system' could be the God ordained government as in Romans 13. 1-5, and the 'person' that of the Holy Spirit, who presently indwells the living saints. The removal of these two will happen at the rapture (i.e. the snatching away of the church by the Lord Jesus when He comes to the air, 1 Thess. 4. 13-18).
We have everything to comfort our hearts in that whilst we anticipate these events, in the evidence of conditions around us, we know we shall not be a part of them. We are waiting for 'his Son from heaven.... even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come', 1 Thess. 1. 10. (Better rendered by most other translation? as 'even Jesus, our Deliverer from the coming wrath'). We now need to strengthen ourselves in the following ways:-
(1) by viewing these evidences of the last times, not as exceptional, but as part of the unfolding of the purposes of God for the days in which we live.
(2) by reassuring ourselves of the Scriptures that deal with these matters and not allowing ignorance to make us vulnerable to fear.
(3) by looking for and daily expecting the return of the Lord Jesus for us, knowing His promise to do so will not fail.
(4) by getting on with the job of witnessing and living for the Lord, and taking every opportunity to evangelise those who are without Christ.
All these are to be found in Paul's concluding exhortations to the Thessalonians, who also lived in troubled and disturbing times similar to ours today, 1 Thess. 5. 9-24; 2 Thess. 2. 13-17.