"Come, Lord Jesus", CFP, Part 6 The Trinity of Satan, by Watchman Nee
12.1-6 “A GREAT SIGN”
A sign appears to tell people what is to be expected. Beginning in 12.1 the apostle John again prophesies, in accordance with the words of chapter 10—“Thou must prophesy again” (v.11).
Hence the portion of Revelation from 12.1 to 22.21 is a prophesying again, with a view to supplementing the first part which runs from chapter 6 to chapter 11. The first part (6-11) gives the outline in order, while the second part (12-22) presents the details.
In 11.15 the great voices in heaven are recorded as saying: “The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever”—This word projects itself beyond to the new heaven and the new earth, for this kingdom is to go on forever and ever. Thus chapters 6-11 may be considered as speaking on to the point of the new heaven and the new earth. Chapters 12-22 take up the vital points belonging to the first part by explaining them in detail. Just as Genesis 1 speaks of what God has done in the six days, Genesis 2 treats specifically of what God does on the sixth day. In this matter of treatment, therefore, Revelation 6-11 can be compared to Genesis 1, and Revelation 12-22 to Genesis 2.
The star fallen from heaven to the earth in 9.1 is the same person as the great red dragon spoken of in 12.3.
Chapters 12-14 are written symbolically, while matters mentioned in chapters 15-16 are presented literally, with the contents of chapters 17 and 18 again being shown in symbolic fashion. For it should be noted that the wrath of God and His judgment are never presented symbolically; they are always given in literal form.
12.1 Some suggest that this woman is Mary, but such an interpretation is incorrect because (1) it is inconceivable that Mary could possess the glory depicted in 12.1; (2) this woman already has other children (12.17), but the Lord Jesus is the firstborn of Mary; and (3) this kind of interpretation is contrary to the very nature of this prophetic book. If the woman is Mary and the man child is Christ, then this would be historical and not prophetic in nature. Yet this book is the very revelation of Jesus Christ.
Who, then, is the woman? Before answering directly, let us make the following observations:
(1) All single women mentioned in this book point to some city (17.18; 21.9,10).
(2) J. K. Seiss has indicated that the sun represents the Lord, the moon the power of darkness, and the twelve stars the twelve tribes of Israel. It is within reason to say that the sun speaks of Christ and the twelve stars the twelve tribes (Israel), but what is the basis for saying that the moon stands for the power of darkness? Robert Govett has stated that the sun suggests grace which idea is acceptable, that the moon represents the law which thought is totally unacceptable, and that the stars stand for the twelve tribes of Israel which interpretation is also acceptable. The difficulty lies in explaining the moon.
Thus there are those who claim that these sun, moon, and stars all point to Christians. Their basis for so interpreting is in 1 Corinthians 15.41. Yet there is a great difference between the stars mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15.41 and the stars here in 12.1. For the stars in the latter case are described as “twelve stars”—a specific rather than general reference.
Our answer is: this woman signifies Jerusalem of the nation of Israel. And the reasons are as follows.
(1) By reading Genesis 37.9-10 we readily know that the sun stands for Jacob, the moon for his wife, and the twelve stars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Since the sun, moon, and stars are spoken of together, this leads us to believe that the woman is the city of Jerusalem—which represents the nation of Israel.
(2) “Arrayed with the sun”, not the sun itself, is what is in view here. This distinguishes her as the mother of Israel. The phrase “and the moon under her feet” is to indicate how she is being forgotten, while the words “and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” clearly stand for the twelve tribes of Israel.
(3) “Travailing in birth” (12.2). In Isaiah 26.17-18, in Jeremiah 6.22-25 (where Zion is Jerusalem), 13.19-21 and 30.6-7, and in Micah 4.8-10 and 5.1-3, all these prophets announce beforehand that Jerusalem will be in pangs as a woman is found in travail.
(4) The archangel Michael comes to help. According to Daniel 12.1, at the time of trouble Michael shall stand up for the children of Israel.
(5) God orders the woman to flee to the wilderness (12.6,14). According to Matthew 24.16-21 our Lord clearly tells them to flee (cf. also Luke 21.20-24).
Why are Christians considered as coming out of Jerusalem? Because (1) the Lord is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5.5), (2) salvation is from the Jews (John 4.22), and (3) the Jerusalem above is our mother (Gal. 4.26).
[Translator’s Note: In the author’s book which in Chinese is entitled Holy and Without Blemish (first published at Shanghai in 1953, with a later Chinese edition published at Hong Kong under the title The Glorious Church), Mr. Nee came to a more matured understanding concerning the significance of “the woman” in Revelation 12. There he posed the same question: Who is this woman? In the following paragraphs, translated directly from pages 78 and 79 of the Shanghai, 1953 edition, the reader will find the author’s answer.]
In the Old Testament record there is only one woman who had an encounter with the serpent, and she is Eve of Genesis 3. Now in the New Testament there is also one woman who had a skirmish with the serpent, and she is this woman of Revelation 12. This shows the unity of the Bible. Here God purposely mentions that the great dragon is the old serpent, thus distinguishing it as the one, same and only old serpent. Likewise, this woman will also be the same woman as in the Garden. Moreover, as there are sun, moon and stars mentioned in Genesis 1, so there are sun, moon and stars spoken of here. As there is the serpent in Genesis 3, so the serpent is present here. As the seed of the woman is mentioned in Genesis 3, so the seed of the woman is also shown here. And as travail in birth is predicted in Genesis 3, so travail in birth is presented here. By studying these two passages of the Scriptures together we may conclude that this woman is none other than the woman who has been foreordained in the eternal purpose of God and who will experience such things as these at the last days. Hence we may say that the woman mentioned in Genesis 2 reveals the eternal will of God; the woman seen in Ephesians 5 unveils the position and future of the church; the woman spoken of in Revelation 12 discloses that which will happen at the last days; and there is yet a woman who will declare what is going to be in eternity.
When this woman appears in the vision now before us, the Bible describes her as “arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”—And these descriptions have their dispensational meanings:
(1) This woman is arrayed with the sun—the sun points to the Lord Jesus. Since the woman is arrayed with the sun, this indicates that the sun shines at its brightest hour upon the woman. In this dispensation God is manifesting himself through her. This is her relationship with Christ and with the dispensation of grace.
(2) This woman has the moon under her feet—the word “under” does not imply “tread upon”; in the Greek the word simply means a lying under her feet. The light of the moon is not self-producing but is reflective. Things in the dispensation of law only reflect the things in the dispensation of grace, for the law is but a shadow. The holy temple, the ark, the incense and the shewbread, the sacrifices which the priests offer, and even the blood of the bullocks and lambs—all these are types. The moon being under the woman’s feet shows how the things of the law are subjected to her, that is to say, they belong to her. So that this description tells of the woman’s relationship with the dispensation of law.
(3) This woman wears upon her head a crown of twelve stars—the distinguished personages who figured during the dispensation of the patriarchs may be counted from Abraham up to the birth of the twelve tribes of Israel. Wearing such a crown of twelve stars shows the relationship between this woman and the dispensation of the patriarchs.
From the above observations we can understand that this woman is related not only to the dispensation of grace but also to the dispensations of law and of the patriarchs, although here her relationship with the dispensation of grace is most intimate. And hence representationally this woman includes in herself the people found in the dispensations of the patriarchs and of law as well as in the dispensation of grace.
[Here ends the translated portion taken directly from Mr. Nee’s Holy and Without Blemish (Shanghai, 1953), pp. 78-79.—Translator]
12.3 “A great red dragon”—He is the same as “the old serpent” or “the Devil” or “Satan” found in 12.9. This serpent is the very one spoken of in Genesis 3.1. “Red” is the color of war. As a great red dragon he is a killer from the beginning to the end (cf. John 8.44; 1 John 5.19). “Seven heads” (see 17.9,12)—Ten horns represent the kings under the great king. The head is bigger than the horn and it is the head that makes use of the horns. Hence the dragon will use the so-called revived Roman Empire together with these lesser kings to persecute God’s children.
12.4 “The third part of the stars of heaven, . . . cast them to the earth”—These stars are the angels cited in 12.9. The third part of the angels of heaven has followed the devil. The casting down of the dragon will occur after the man child is raptured.
12.5 Who is this “man child”? Some say it represents the children of Israel, but this is not possible due to the following reasons:
(1) The sun, moon and stars already represent the nation of Israel.
(2) This man child is caught up to the throne. The Bible never suggests that the nation of Israel will be raptured, for such a thought is in direct conflict with the prophecies concerning the nation of Israel.
(3) This man child trusts in the blood of the Lamb (12.11), but the nation of Israel does not. Some people have even advanced the theory that at the time of the Great Tribulation many of the children of Israel will believe in the Lord. Yet the Bible has not said this. What the Scriptures do say is that when the feet of the Lord Jesus shall touch the Mount of Olives God will open a fountain of salvation for the children of Israel, and then and there they will be saved (Zech. 13.1, 14.4, 12.10-14).
Some others advocate the interpretation of Christ being the man child, but this is also inapplicable for the following reasons:
(1) The woman represents Jerusalem, while the Lord Jesus is born in Bethlehem.
(2) This man child is not personal but corporate in character (12.10-11).
(3) Should this man child be Christ, the dragon will then be Herod, yet 12.9 states explicitly that the dragon is Satan himself.
(4) As soon as the man child is born, he is caught up to the throne, whereas the Lord Jesus is taken up to heaven only after He has lived over thirty years, died, and been raised from the dead.
(5) Because all this is a vision, the word “travail” cannot be interpreted literally.
Still others say that the man child denotes the whole church. This too is impossible since (1) the whole church is not all raptured at the same time: some will go in advance of others and some will follow afterwards, but here the man child is caught up as a unit simultaneously; (2) to rule all the nations with an iron rod is not a promise given to the entire church, rather is it promised to the overcomers only (2.26-27), and not all in the church are overcomers; and (3) to reign is promised to those who suffer and endure with the Lord today (2 Tim. 2.12).
Who, then, is this man child? He must be the overcomers: for example, (1) some Christians in the church in Smyrna, since “Be thou faithful unto death” (2.10) coincides with the last clause in 12.11—“they loved not their life even unto death”; (2) some Christians in the church in Thyatira, for “he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (2.26,27) agrees with “a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (12.5); (3) some Christians in the church in Philadelphia, because they are kept out of “the hour of trial” (3.10) just as the man child is “caught up unto God” (12.5); and (4) some Christians in the church in Laodicea, since they will “sit” on the “throne” (3.21) just as the man child “is to rule all the nations” (12.5).
Accordingly, those represented by the man child are not the whole church but are the overcomers within the church. In our discussion of chapter 7 we have already listed eight points of similarity between the great multitude spoken of there and the man child mentioned here. For the man child represents a portion of that countless number. (Please note that chapter 7 deals with the general topic of rapture, whereas chapter 12 gives the details of some part of those raptured.)
[Translator’s Note: In his later work, already quoted from above, Mr. Nee in Holy and Without Blemish elaborates on the meaning of the man child. The following four paragraphs are translated directly from pages 81-84 of the Shanghai, 1953 edition.]
Verse 5 “And she was delivered of a son, a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne”—In order to know the relationship between this man child and the woman, please read Galatians—”But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother” (4.26). Read also the last clause in the next verse: “For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband” (v.27). The Jerusalem above is the New Jerusalem, which is the woman whom God has prepared to have in eternity to come. She is none other than Eve in creation, the body of Christ in the dispensation of grace, this woman whom we see at the close of the dispensation of grace, and the New Jerusalem God will have in the eternity to come. A having many children does not suggest that the mother is separated from the children; rather does it mean that the one is divided into many, yet the many are combined into one. By adding up these many children you have the mother. It is not a case of a mother with five children making six, but a case of the five children making up the one mother. Each child is a part of the mother, who imparts a little of herself to each child. They seem as though they are begotten of her, yet actually they are but her own self. Thus the mother is not one who stands alongside her children but is the sum total of many children that are in view. This is a very special principle.
In chapter 12 the man child whom the woman delivers is subject to the same principle. This being a vision, it is symbolic in character. The word “delivered” here does not imply the idea of the child coming out and being separated from the woman, it instead implies that within the woman there is such a man child. In other words, a class of people is included in this woman. All the people of God are ordained to have a share in the eternal purpose and plan of God. Due to their failure in taking up responsibility, however, God chooses from among them a number of people. The people whom God has chosen from the many form the man child. The mother represents the whole, the man child represents the remnant. This man child is the “brethren” mentioned in verse 10. He is not one person but is a considerable number of people—a composite of many; though in comparison with the mother, this man child is only a minority. Nevertheless, in spite of their smallness in number as compared to the whole body, the plan and purpose of God is upon them.
“And she was delivered of a son, a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (v.5). Three times in the book of Revelation is this ruling with an iron rod mentioned. The first time is in 2.26,27: “And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron”—This most distinctly points to the overcomers in the church. The last time is in 19.15: “And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron”—This is in reference to the Lord Jesus.
Now then, to whom does this verse in 12.5 refer? If it is not applicable to the overcomers in the church it must have reference to the Lord Jesus. Yet can it mean the Lord Jesus here? It is highly improbable (though not absolutely impossible, since later on we will observe that the Lord Jesus is also included). Why is it not probable? Because as soon as the man child is born he is caught up to the throne of God. It thus indicates that the man child cannot be Christ since the Lord Jesus when on the earth lived for over 33 years, died, and was raised from the dead before He ascended. Hence we believe this man child signifies the overcomers in the church. He represents a part of the church, that part which overcomes. Nonetheless, the man child also includes the Lord Jesus since He is the first overcomer and all other overcomers are included in Him.
[Here ends the translated portion taken directly from Mr. Nee’s Holy and Without Blemish (Shanghai, 1953), pp. 81-84.—Translator]
12.6 “And the woman fled”—This is the same flight as is depicted in Matthew 24.6-20 and Luke 21.20-24. In 12.1 the woman is seen in heaven, but now in 12.6 she is in the wilderness. After the man child is born she loses her heavenly position. She is now none else but the Jerusalem on earth. A wilderness is a place both barren and uninhabited. God nourishes her as He did the children of Israel in the days of the Exodus.
In Galatians 4.21-31 we have a contrast: one is the heavenly Jerusalem, the other is the earthly Jerusalem; one represents the Christians, the other, the Jews; one is typified by Israel, the other, by Ishmael. The essential thought in all this is to prove that we Christians are free in the same way as Isaac was free.
12.7-9 “WAR IN HEAVEN”
12.7 War is inevitable. Who is to dwell in heaven—the man child or the dragon? The man child is to occupy the dragon’s territory, therefore there is war.
In the whole Bible, only one archangel is named—Michael, whose name means “Who is like God?” (some interpreters even think that Michael is the Lord Jesus).
During the days of Job the dragon could appear before the presence of God. At the time of Christ he still could appear. But at the time of the rapture of the man child, he no longer can.
12.8,9 The name dragon speaks of cruelty; old serpent, of deceit; devil, of seduction; and Satan, of opposition. The devil is cast down from heaven, along with a third part of the angels who follow him, and he opens the pit of the abyss (9.1). How very dark is this world!
12.10-12 “A GREAT VOICE”
12.10 Formerly God redeemed with the blood, but now He redeems with power. The authority of the kingdom of God is perfect at the throne; but before Satan is cast down, God’s will is not done in the air. After 1260 days the kingdom of God will come upon the earth, and then shall His will be done on earth also. (The casting out of demons recorded in Matthew 12.28 is a proof that the kingdom of God has come upon the earth.)
12.11 Three things are essential for overcoming the accuser: (1) The blood. (Since the accusations may not always be false, the blood is imperative for us.) We rest in the precious blood of the Lamb (Rom. 8.31-34). (2) The word of the testimony. Not only what the heart believes, but also what the mouth confesses concerning the same heart belief. As the word is spoken, Satan becomes helpless. (3) An attitude of not fearing death. The greatest of all temptations is death. If we maintain a right attitude, Satan is beaten.
12.12 In Revelation 13.1 a beast is mentioned as coming up out of the sea (Antichrist). In 13.11 it is recorded that a beast (the false prophet) comes up out of the earth. In 9.1 the Bible says that “a star” (the dragon) is fallen from heaven. When these three come upon the earth, there is “woe for the earth and the sea” as is stated here in verse 12.
The premonition of Satan (“knowing that he hath but a short time”) is comparable to the deduction that an historian might arrive at.
During the tribulation there is the wrath of God as well as the wrath of Satan.
12.13-17 “THE DRAGON . . . PERSECUTED THE WOMAN”
12.13 Many Old Testament prophets had made predictions concerning these events mentioned here and in the succeeding verses. During the time of the Great Tribulation the city of Jerusalem will be under the siege of nations. In persecuting the woman, the dragon is but carrying out his “great wrath” mentioned in the preceding verse.
12.14 Since the woman is symbolic, the wings must also be symbolic. God will give her a supernatural power to run fast. When God led the children of Israel out of Egypt He carried them as the eagle does its eaglets on its wings (Ex. 19.4; Deut. 32.11,12). The Jews at that time will receive special protection from God.
12.15 Since the “serpent” is Satan, the “water” mentioned here must mean something else too. By reading Jeremiah 46.7,8 we know that water signifies the rushing of enemy armies (cf. also Jer. 47.2,4; Is. 59.19). As the dragon casts water after the woman, so Satan will use the armies of the nations to pursue the children of Israel.
12.16 “Earth” is earth. In Exodus 15.10 we see that God uses water to overturn the Egyptian army; in Numbers 16.30 we read that He opens the earth to swallow up the rebellious; and now He uses the earth again in the same way to protect the chosen race.
12.17 The phrase “the rest of her seed” includes the faithful Jews and the Christians who are left behind. If these words refer only to the Jews it cannot be said of them that they “keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus”, since at this juncture the Lord has not yet returned to earth nor have the Jews believed in Him.
The word “saints” in 13.7 comprises in its meaning both the Jews and the Christians who are left behind. And hence they are the same people as is “the rest of the [woman’s] seed” spoken of in 12.17.
13.1-10 “A BEAST COMING UP OUT OF THE SEA”
The sea points to the Mediterranean, and the beast represents either a kingdom—that of the Roman Empire—or a person who is Antichrist.
If the beast means a kingdom, the sea needs to be interpreted spiritually. If the beast represents a person, the sea must be taken literally. Spiritually interpreted, “sea” stands for the Gentiles since the land is spiritually reckoned as the Jews. This is in accordance with the way the Scriptures explain the sea. “The waters which thou sawest, when the harlot sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (17.15). We find in Daniel 7.3,7 that the sea indicates the Gentile world too. And hence a coming up out of the sea means a coming forth from the Gentile world.
“A beast coming up out of the sea”—The Roman Empire will revive. The sea discloses its location and the beast reveals its character.
13.1 “Ten horns” represent ten minor kings (17.12), while “seven heads” speak of seven supreme kings (17.10). Since the heads are bigger than the horns and the latter are on the heads, the seven heads and ten horns must stand for seven emperors and ten kings.
The “seven heads” indicate seven successive emperors, whereas the “ten horns” speak of ten contemporary kings. (Altogether, the ancient Roman Empire had thirteen Caesars, among whom five, at the time of John the Apostle, died violently. The term “fallen” (17.10) in the original bears in it the sense of a violent death. The sixth Caesar, Domitian, it should be recalled, was also slain. And the seventh one will likewise be killed. So that all seven Roman Emperors mentioned by God do not die peacefully. The ten horns are but subordinate kings to Rome.)
Antichrist is the beast as well as the seventh head. 12.3 reads: “Upon his heads seven diadems”; and the next chapter says: “On his horns ten diadems” (13.1). Antichrist in the days to come will arise from the revived Roman Empire so as to gain control over Europe. According to the historical narration the ten kings alluded to in 12.3 are not yet crowned, nor do they have authority. But after these ten kings are crowned and receive authority they will crown the beast. And thus Antichrist gains authority at that very time.
“Blasphemy”—Whatever exalts oneself and abases God is blasphemy (see Matt. 9.3, 26.65; John 5.18, 10.33; Mark 3.28; Rev. 16.21).
“Upon his heads names of blasphemy”—It means that these heads call themselves gods. History informs us that the first five Caesars in the Roman Empire demanded the people to worship them as gods.
13.2 “Leopard”—In order to understand this section we must read Daniel 2.31-33 and 7.3-8. By so doing we learn that (1) the lion is the golden head in Nebuchadnezzar’s image, (2) the bear is Medo-Persia—the breast of silver, (3) the leopard has a belly of brass and thus represents Greece, and (4) the fourth beast, terrible and powerful, which was diverse from the other beasts, has the legs of iron—which is the Roman Empire. Babylon is terrible in war, Medo-Persia is slow but savage, Greece is ferocious, and Rome is cruel.
The beast of 13.2 possesses all four bad characters. In fact, it is the composite of all the powers of the nations. The book of Revelation speaks of the Lord Jesus as the Lamb 28 times, and the beast it speaks of as the wild beast 36 times.
God will make use of the beast to judge the world (Jer. 5.6, Hosea 13.7, Hab. 1.8). The leopard has spots, thus signifying having sins (Jer. 13.23). Both the bear and the lion tore people apart (see 2 Kings 2.24 on how the bears tore up the 42 lads, read Daniel 6.22 on how God sealed the mouths of the lions against Daniel, and read 2 Tim. 4.17 on how God delivered Paul out of the lion’s mouth).
The beast we read about in 13.2 points to a kingdom because it has seven heads and ten horns. According to 17.9,10,12 a kingdom is no doubt meant. The lion, the bear and the leopard mentioned in Daniel 7 are all symbolic of kingdoms; and hence the fourth beast must also be a kingdom—that of the Roman Empire.
But the beast of 13.2 likewise refers to a person. The term “fallen” used in 17.8-11 means meeting violent death, and the one who still remained at the time of the Apostle John was Domitian; therefore the beast spoken of in 19.20 and 20.10 is no doubt a man with personality. God does not cast a kingdom into the lake of fire.
13.3,14 “As though it had been smitten unto death”—The image must be that of a man, for Antichrist is a human being. The dragon counterfeits God; the beast, Christ; and the false prophet, the Holy Spirit.
The false father also gives authority to the false son so that the latter may have the power to perform lying wonders (2 Thess. 2.9). The phrase “lying wonders” does not mean to convey the idea that these wonders are false; it simply means that the purpose of these wonders is to deceive people.
“His throne” (13.2)—This indicates that there must be a kingdom. No kingdom, then no throne. The dragon revives the Roman Empire and gives it to the false christ.
Note that 13.3 says this: “as though it had been smitten unto death”; and chapter 13 further comments on it by saying: “the stroke of the sword” (v.14). In connection with 17.7,8, it should be noted that John wrote this book of Revelation in approximately 96 A.D. Hence the word “was” must refer to the time before 96 A.D.; “is not”, to the time when John wrote this book; and “is about to come up out of the abyss, and to go into perdition”, to the time in the future. According to 17.9-11, “the five are fallen, the one is” (this latter one, at the time of John, was Domitian); “the other is not yet come” (one wonders if he is now already in the world, but only waiting to be manifested). Judging by the words in verse 11, there are seven souls, seven bodies; yet eight live, for the eighth one is also one of the original seven. He must have died and is to be reanimated in the days to come. There will arise a most powerful person who will revive the Roman Empire and become the leader of a confederacy of ten kingdoms. He will be killed, but he will also be reanimated. Thus, the whole world will consider him as god. Actually, he is not resurrected in the real sense; he is only reanimated by the entering into his body of the soul of one of the former Emperors.*
*Not to be construed as teaching reincarnation. See explanatory footnote at 17.11 below.—Translator
Many people do not believe in the resurrection of Christ, and yet they all shall believe in the reanimation of Antichrist.
13.4 Antichrist is so influential because the dragon is backing him. People worship the beast because they consider him superior both in personality and power.
13.5 “Speaking great things”—that is, exalting one’s own self; “and blasphemies”—defying God. The “authority” given, as mentioned in this verse, is permitted by God and is of a restricted nature. The number “forty and two” is the multiplication of seven and six. Seven is a perfect number, but six is a satanic one. We notice that in Numbers there were 42 stations from the Exodus to Canaan; and in 2 Kings we note that the bears tore up 42 lads: in the Bible the number 42 stands for wandering and judgment. In reading 2 Thessalonians 2.9-11 we learn the reason God allows Satan to go on a rampage for 42 months. The word “lie” in verse 11 has a definite article before it in the original Greek. It should therefore properly be read as “the lie”, which may refer back to Genesis 3 where we read that Satan lied by saying “shall not surely” and “shall be as God” (vv.4,5).
13.6 The first thing the beast does is to blaspheme God, for the name of God includes all the personality, nature, and authority of God. The phrase “his tabernacle” points to heaven.
13.7 “To make war with the saints”—These latter are the Christians who are kept behind and those Jews who are faithful to God. The influence of the beast is world wide, though his kingdom is limited to the revived Roman Empire.
13.8 This verse proves that there will yet be Christians on earth, for there will still be people whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. It is by the power of God’s election that they are being kept from succumbing to temptation.
13.9 “If any man hath an ear, let him hear”—In the time of chapters 2 and 3 the churches still hold their position as such, hence each time there is added the clause: “what the Spirit saith to the churches”; here, though, only some Christians still remain behind, and therefore the exhortation simply reads: “If any man hath an ear, let him hear.”
13.10 Christians cannot rise up, as the Crusaders did, to fight against their enemies. They can only practice patience. If they lose their patience they will lose their faith.
13.11-18 “ANOTHER BEAST COMING UP OUT OF EARTH”
13.11 This beast is also a wild beast. Because he is to come up out of the earth he must also be a re-vitalized person, since Hades is beneath the earth. On the other hand, “earth” may have reference to the Jewish nation. The Scriptures often classify the earth as being symbolic of the nation of Israel.
This beast is the false prophet. He is a person since (1) three times the Bible calls him the false prophet (16.13, 19.20, 20.10), (2) the Lord has clearly stated that there will be false prophets (Matt. 24.24), and (3) there are three evil spirits: Satan, the beast (Antichrist), and another beast (the false prophet). Each has his mission to fulfill. Thus this beast cannot be a system but a person. At the time of evil, we have the counterfeit of the triune God.
“Two horns”—Since this beast is a person and not a kingdom, his two horns should signify two spirits; for the horns of the Lamb are referred to as being the Spirit of God (5.6), and the horns of the beast are like to those of the Lamb. “To give breath to it” (13.15) may be translated “to give spirit to it”; this is one spirit, and 16.13 tells of another spirit.
“And he spake as a dragon”—His speech is both deceitful and atrocious. Just as the first beast sits on the throne of the dragon, so this beast speaks the word of the dragon.
13.12 This second beast works by means of the authority of the first beast. As the Holy Spirit is the executor as well as the power in the Godhead, so the false prophet is the executor and the power of the trio of evil. “To worship” here is compulsory, unlike that mentioned in 13.4 which is voluntary.
There are many evidences to link the first beast with the revitalization of Nero. This second beast may very well be the return from the dead of the betrayer Judas. Acts 1.20, Psalm 69.25 and Psalm 109.8 all point to Judas, for Acts 1.20 quotes from Psalms 69 and 109. Psalm 109.6 declares: “Let Satan stand at his right hand” (mg.)—This is yet to be fulfilled. At the time of Christ, Satan entered into the heart of Judas; but not until the time of Revelation 13.12 will Satan stand at his right hand. We are also told in Acts 1: “that he might go to his own place” (v.25). Concerning other individuals the Scriptures always say he is “gathered to his own people” or that “he is gone down into sheol”; but in the case of Judas we are told that “he might go to his own place”—as though he has a special place set aside for his use. In the entire New Testament the term “son of perdition” is only used twice: one is found in John 17.12 which distinctly points to Judas, and the other is found in 2 Thessalonians 2.3 which alludes to Antichrist. If the first beast is Antichrist, the son of perdition, who else can be the second beast except Judas who also is called the son of perdition? In John 6 the Lord is recorded as calling Judas “a devil” (v.70). So then, who but Judas can rank among the trio of evil?
13.13 The greatest sign he will perform is that of making fire come down from heaven. This perhaps is for the purpose of counteracting the fire which the two witnesses draw down to the earth.
13.14,15 Here is the consummation of idolatry. Just as the Lord, after His resurrection, bears the marks of wounds which He once showed to Thomas, so the sword wound of the beast remains visible to people so as to convince them of his revitalization.
“Breath” may also be translated “spirit”—after the spirit is given, there will naturally be breath. This beast possesses three characteristics: (1) to give breath, (2) to make the image speak, and (3) to cause those to be killed who do not worship the image of the beast. This is quite different from what is mentioned in Psalm 135.15-17 and Jeremiah 10.3ff. In ancient times the images or idols had mouths but spoke not, had eyes but saw not, had ears but heard not, neither was there any breath found in their mouths. In the future, though, the image of the beast will have breath.* How the image of the beast can kill people is not revealed to us. It may be that the image of the beast will announce a sentence of death and people will then be put to death, or it may even possess some kind of mechanism by which to kill people.
*But see explanatory footnote on this at 17.11 below.—Translator
13.16 “A mark”—This mark must be visible. Since it is stamped on the human body, it must by physical in nature. When people buy or sell, this mark can easily be distinguished. To be so marked means that the soul and body of the man belong to Satan. He is to be an open, not a secret, follower of Satan. No doubt such people do not have Christ in them.
13.17 It is hard not to sell, but it is harder not to buy. The mark can be of various kinds, with some bearing the name of the beast and others the number of his name.
13.18 Many have attempted to find out what the number 666 is, but they fail to see the unity of this verse. Three things need to be joined in one: First, “the number of a man” (the number of a place is therefore discounted). Second, “the number of the beast”—In 13.1 it is stated that the beast has seven heads, and in 17.9,10 it is stated that the seven heads are “the seven mountains”, also they are “the seven kings” (the city of Rome is alone built on seven hills). Which does the beast represent—the Roman Empire or one of the emperors of Rome? Since 13.18 says that the number of the beast is the number of a man, the beast cannot stand for the Roman Empire but rather points to one of the Roman emperors. And third, “the number of [a man’s] name”, which is also the number of the name of a Roman emperor, must be 666. From the convergence of these three points we may find out who the beast is.
In both Greek and Hebrew, the letters of the alphabet are also used for numbers. Apart from Nero Caesar there is no one else in history who fits this number. The number of Nero is 306, and the number for Caesar is 360. The Bible usually mentions the name of a Roman Emperor together with the title Caesar, such as in Luke 2.1 and 3.1 we have Caesar Augustus and Tiberius Caesar. History tells us that Nero always called himself Caesar.
The name Nero Caesar in Hebrew makes up 666, as follows:*
* Robert Govett, The Apocalypse Expounded. London: Chas. J. Thynne, 1920, p. 351.—Translator