Revelation 13: 1-5: Counterfeit.

“The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. People worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?’The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months.”NIV

‘As often in the world of realpolitik, or underworld dealings, so in the world of spiritual warfare: the ultimate powers prefer not to show themselves, but to act through others.’ Tom Wright: ‘Revelation for Everyone’, p.115.

There will come a day when there is a final world government, focussed in one last diabolical dictator. He will cause every other tyrant to pale into insignificance. Revelation 13 has been interpreted in this way by many Christian commentators for many years. That doesn’t make it a correct interpretation, but I see no good reason to reject it. Antichrist will come. He is not simply against Christ but, as the word suggests in its original meaning, one who sets himself up in the place of Christ. This is the ultimate blasphemy. The antiChrist will fall for the temptation Jesus had resisted (Matthew 4:8-10). (Consider the counterfeit seeming death and resurrection in verse 3) We know from the previous chapter that Satan has been hurled out of heaven to earth where, for a time, he will be permitted to do his worst, and this includes opposing the church. His last big move will be to have himself worshipped in the person of this seemingly all-powerful figure (4). The third verse shows the great power of the beast. It will be extremely difficult to kill him. But he will be dealt with, as we shall see. Like the dragon – Satan himself – this agent of his will be on borrowed time (5).

The background to this passage is found in Daniel 7, but here the four beasts are telescoped into one figure.  It is important to remember, though, that for John, the ‘’beast’’ would have represented the Roman Empire. For example, in John’s day, Roman emperors gave themselves the names of gods; in fact they considered themselves to be gods. Says Tom Wright: ‘…John sees behind the pomp and the purple to the dark spiritual reality of satanic rule which has enabled the empire to impose itself across so much of the world. Rome is the obvious and only ‘monster’ candidate in the first century. But the phenomenon of heartless, dehumanised pagan empire, sadly, did not end with the decline and demise of Rome. This is why the sharp relevance of all this for John’s own readers remains, in a different guise, for other readers to this day’, p.116.

‘For John, this beast was like the Roman Empire. But we must remember that the real meaning of the beast is broader than that. The beast is a sign of every evil worldly power in every age that opposes Christ and His church.’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.981.

But, I believe there will be one final empire representing the devil’s last throw of the dice, before he is totally overthrown. At the end, all the evil of previous empires will be rolled into one nasty human ball. He will strut his petty hour on the stage, but the curtain will fall, and there will be no applause – only cheers that he has gone for good.