This is the fourth post in a seven-part series. The rest of the series can be reached from this post.
Revelation chapter 12 gives a picture that seems a bit out of sequence with the narrative, as if it is an overarching summary. It depicts a woman (Israel) giving birth to a male child (Jesus) while a dragon (Satan) stands waiting to kill the baby as soon as it is born. The child is caught up to God; the woman is hidden away and protected for 1260 days (our “3-1/2 years” again); the dragon wages war against God’s angels and is defeated and kicked out, down to Earth.
On earth, he tries again to persecute the woman, but again she is protected for “a time and times and half a time” (3-1/2 years). Satan gives up on the woman temporarily, and sulks off to attack “the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17).
At this point, Revelation introduces two Beasts, also known as the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet.
You may find it interesting to learn that the Bible mentions more than one “anti-Christ”, and that the exact word is not used in the passages that describe End Times! The concept is there, of course, but not by the word we most often associate with it. The Apostle John’s letters used the word in a more generic way, like “even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18-24, see also 1 John 4:1-6). Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica uses “man of lawlessness” to refer to the final Anti-Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
Prophecies of King Anti-Christ
Daniel’s prophecies sometimes refer to the coming enemy as a “horn” (a common Biblical metaphor for “power” or “leader”). In Daniel 7:8 and 7:23-26, a little horn grows up among others and overtakes them. The same is true in Daniel 8:9-14 and 8:23-26. In Daniel 11:36-45, he is simply a king.
Note that there is overlap and differing opinions on whether Daniel’s king is the end-time Anti-Christ. The same prophecies could also possibly refer to Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king who tormented the Jews in 175-164 B.C. Biblical prophecies also occasionally have multiple layers of fulfillment, so it is possible for both to be true at the same time.
Revelation 13 describes the two Beasts, one empowered by Satan and the second one supporting and speaking on behalf of the first. These have become known at the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet. Together, they deceive the world into giving them complete control. They even do Biblical-style miracles: The Anti-Christ Beast receives a fatal wound but is healed back to life, and the False-Prophet Beast causes a statue of the Anti-Christ to speak 1. Any who do not worship the statue of the Anti-Christ are killed.
Notice the deliberate mimicry of the Trinity of God. Instead of Father/Son/Spirit, there is dragon/beast-1/beast-2 or Satan/Anti-Christ/False-Prophet. Beast-1/Anti-Christ even mimics Christ’s resurrection. But everything they do is deception; nothing is honest or real.
Mark of the Beast
Part of the domination of the two Beasts is that everyone is identified. Those who refuse the “Mark of the Beast” are not allowed to buy or sell. So, no food, no job, no home, absolutely kicked out of society. But God warns that those who do accept this mark will share the Beast/Anti-Christ’s fate:
If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.Revelation 14:9-11
Whether that mark is a tattoo or an embedded micro-chip or something completely unknown is not really relevant. The point is that everyone faces a choice: Worship the Beast and live (until God passes judgment) or worship God and be persecuted or killed (until God raises the dead and avenges the martyrs). Simply looking around at our technological society and the common acquiescing to authority in our world tells how realistic the scenario already is.
Revelation 17 reveals another aspect of the Anti-Christ-controlled world: Babylon, introduced as a woman sitting on another beast and “clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality” (17:4). Later, the woman is defined as “the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (17:18). She is usually interpreted as the entire socio-economic culture, living sensuously but Godlessly.
BTW, Babylon could also be a literal place in addition to a culture. The location of ancient Babylon is in modern-day Iraq, near Baghdad 2. Throughout the Bible, from the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 to the Babylonian exile of Daniel’s time in 586 B.C., Babylon has always stood for defiance against God.
The beast on which the woman is sitting is described as having seven heads and ten horns. I have not found a satisfactory (to me, anyway) interpretation of these. All I can do is quote the passage below, and let you research interpretations for yourself.
The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour.Revelation 17:9-12
The Babylon woman thinks that she is on top of the world, and is in complete control. Revelation 18 tells her “Um, not so much”. She is destroyed instantly, in just one hour, leaving all the merchants who do business with her completely devastated.
The Whole Picture
Put together, these prophecies tell of a world united in its godlessness, under the leadership of the most godless king of all. He starts small and seemingly benign, a “little horn”. When he has shoved his way to the top, though, he shows his true colors. Everyone follows this leader, or pays severe consequences. He heads a culture that is completely committed to sin, intent on crushing anything that even hints of God.
There will be people who have noticed these prophecies being fulfilled, and who have decided to buck the system and choose God instead. Jesus will still save them and welcome them into Heaven with Him. But their road to Home will not be an easy one!
Footnotes and Scripture References
- Satan is nowhere near as powerful as God. But he does have supernatural powers that he could project if desired in order to promote his deceptions.