Revelation 13: The rise of the beast
Revelation chapter 13 describes the rise of the Antichrist and his activities. It will be necessary to tarry on this subject for a while, cross-referencing this chapter with Old and New Testament texts.
Here is what the apostle John wrote about him:
Then I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and 10 horns, with 10 crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names that blasphemed God. This Beast looked like a leopard, but it had the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion! And the dragon gave the Beast his own power and throne and great authority.
I saw that one of the heads of the Beast seemed wounded beyond recovery — but the fatal wound was healed! The whole world marveled at this miracle and gave allegiance to the Beast. They worshiped the dragon for giving the Beast such power, and they also worshiped the Beast. “Who is as great as the beast?” they exclaimed. “Who is able to fight against him?”
Then the Beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God. And he was given authority to do whatever he wanted for 42 months. And he spoke terrible words of blasphemy against God, slandering His name and his dwelling — that is, those who dwell in heaven. And the Beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation. And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the Beast. They are the ones whose names were not written in the Book of Life that belongs to the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made.
Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword.
This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful (Revelation 13:1-10).
In recent years, the world has seen something of its incredible vulnerability for a global disaster of monumental proportions. The geopolitical tensions and the use of nuclear armaments could lead to catastrophic consequences. An economic collapse or financial crisis could trigger social unrest and upheaval across nations. With the increasing dependence on the internet and digital technologies, cyberattacks could cause widespread damage to critical infrastructure, financial systems, and national security. Extreme weather events and natural disasters could significantly damage infrastructure, homes, and human lives. The outbreak of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 can spread rapidly and cause significant social and economic disruption. Pollution and abuse of natural resources can lead to conflicts over water scarcity, food depletion, and widespread malnutrition.
Any leader who could sufficiently address these concerns and promise humanity peace and prosperity could gain control of the entire world. The Bible says that Satan will raise up a Superman who can do it. Revelation says he will come up “out of the sea” (Revelation 13:1). The sea is symbolic of Gentile nations (Revelation 17:15; Isaiah 57:20-21).
So, the likelihood is that this individual, the Antichrist, will be a Gentile world religious and political leader, who will astonish everyone with his incomparable abilities and be worshipped internationally. People will ask, “Who is as great as the beast?” (Revelation 13:4).
The name “Antichrist” is only found in the apostle John’s first and second epistles. In those texts, John says anyone who denies Christ is antichrist.
Today there are many clergy who could legitimately be labeled antichrist.
Recently I was teaching an adult Sunday School lesson at my home church, and I was sharing how progressive clergy can be so pomp and pious. Yet they support so-called abortion rights, celebrate LGBTQ, and laud socialism, something for which they should be ashamed. They rarely, if ever, raise their voices against the things destroying people’s lives: alcohol, marijuana, gambling, pornography, and other evils. They never speak out or challenge the false philosophies and “doctrines of devils,” ruining minds and twisting personalities. They encourage a disregard for biblical morality and the rejection of orthodox Christianity. These clergy never risk a confrontation with the forces of sin, and their silence gives tacit approval to the bad influences literally tearing our nation apart. They fear they may be branded an extremist, a holy roller, an out-of-date Puritan of yesteryear, or a prophet of doom. They prefer popularity and acceptance. If they had any love for the truth, they would be ready to fight for the fidelity of God’s truth. It is not an overstatement to call these religious leaders antichrists. Like the devil, they lead people away from God. They oppose the will of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Although anyone who denies Christ, or the way of Christ, can be labeled antichrist, the Bible still recognizes a real end-time person who will appear in a crescendo of opposition to the true Savior of the world.
So, the events of the final days and the person of the Antichrist are inseparable. The spirit of antichrists pervades the entire Christian era and is prevalent today. But there will be an individual who rises to world dominance and attains the accolades and affection of the masses. Although the nations will laud him as magnificent and majestic, Revelation refers to him as “a Beast” to reveal his character’s beastly nature.
This Beast plans to plant his flag on this planet as a God-free zone. He will turn people away from the Lord and his mercies and coerce small and great to bow down to him.
We see types of the Antichrist in the Old Testament.
The book of Genesis says Nimrod was a great hunter and a king (Genesis 10:8-12). The expression “great hunter” refers to his remarkable ability to communicate and win over the hearts and minds of the people of his day. He was the founder and ruler of Babylon, and known for his great strength and military prowess. He was also a great builder and directed the construction of the Tower of Babel. The Tower would reach to the heavens, signifying the world unifying around a false religion.
Nimrod’s name has come to be associated with rebellion and defiance against God. Some scholars believe he was a god-like figure in the eyes of his people, and they worshiped him as a deity.
Nimrod was a shadow of the Antichrist.
Pharaoh was a type of the Antichrist. He was an oppressor and persecutor of the Jewish people, much like the Antichrist will be an enemy of God’s people in the latter days. Additionally, the Pharaoh’s rejection of Moses’s messages and refusal to acknowledge the power of God mirrors the Antichrist’s rejection of Jesus and God’s authority in the end times.
Some believe Haman, as described in the book of Esther, is a foreshadowing of the Antichrist because of the similarities between his actions and character to those of the Antichrist. Haman and the Antichrist are seen as power-hungry, malicious, manipulative, and authoritarian characters determined to destroy the people of God. Both are also obsessed with control and dominance, as evidenced by Haman’s desire to have all Jews killed and the Antichrist’s commitment to do the same and rule the world. Additionally, both use deception and flattery to achieve their goals, which results in significant harm and suffering for innocent people. Haman clearly serves as a warning of the coming of the Antichrist and the importance of being prepared for the latter days.
Through the years, there has been considerable speculation as to the identity of the Antichrist. The following are some of the many figures throughout history who were suspected or accused of being the Antichrist.
In the first century A.D., some Christians believed the Roman Emperor Nero was the Antichrist because of his cruel persecution of Christians.
In the 10th century, rumors circulated that Pope Sylvester II had made a pact with the devil and was the Antichrist. In the 12th century, St. Bernard called Pope Leo the Antichrist. In the 13th century, Frederick II, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, accused Pope Gregory IX of being Antichrist.
In the 16th century, some Catholics believed Protestant reformer Martin Luther was the Antichrist because he departed from Catholic doctrine and had many sharp criticisms for the Catholic Church. Interestingly, Catholics of this period revived the old theory that the Antichrist would be a Jew. This position relieved the Pope of any possibility of Antichrist guilt. However, the revival of this theory which associated the Jew with the Antichrist also gave rise to the anti-Semitic overtones of the Inquisition.
In the early 19th century, some Christians believed Napoleon Bonaparte was the Antichrist because of his tremendous military conquests and growing political power over much of the world.
During World War II, some Christians were convinced Adolf Hitler was the Antichrist due to his acts of genocide against the Jews and his ambition for world domination.
In the 1980s, some Christian groups believed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was the Antichrist because of his role in the Cold War, his efforts to reform the Soviet Union, and his development as someone with increasing influence on the world stage.
In the 21st century, some conservative Christians believed former U.S. President Barack Obama was the Antichrist because of his policies and political ideologies. Although the President claimed to be a Christian, he downplayed the influence of Christianity and erroneously showed favor for Islam as a beautiful and peaceful world religion.
Regarding the many conjectures and suppositions which sought to identify the Antichrist, and there have been hundreds of them, each one was proven wrong. It seems as though such labeling was often born out of political or religious hatred and suspicion. Christians should be more circumspect in their understanding and application of biblical prophecy.
The late M.R. DeHaan, in his book, Revelation, offers wise advice:
"The true identity of the Antichrist will not be known until the Church is gone [until the Church is raptured out of the world]. This is definitely stated in II Thessalonians 2:3, where we are told that the man of sin will not be revealed until after the Church is gone. It is foolish, therefore, to speculate as to his identity."
Nevertheless, as mentioned beforehand, it certainly seems the groundwork is being laid for the Antichrist’s appearance at the present hour. Current events such as increasing divisions and conflicts between nations, tremendous social unrest, a general hostility toward the Jews and Christianity, rank moral degradation, technological advancements that have enabled widespread surveillance and control, global pandemics, and the probability of a major worldwide economic crisis, are all signs of the last days pointing to the coming of the Devil’s superman, who will deceive the vast majority of the world’s population that he can solve every global issue. He will appear as a charismatic and persuasive leader who can provide salvation and deliverance. When in reality, he is a Beast – a human monster whose power comes from the dreaded Dragon — the devil himself.
Let me close with another quote from M.R. DeHaan:
“Terrible are the days which lie ahead. The rumblings of the coming judgment can be heard in the distance. The clouds are gathering. Inventions…have made men tremble at what lies ahead. There is only one way out, and that is through him [Christ], who is the door to absolute safety. Those who receive him and enter through the door by faith are safe. They are described as those whose names ‘are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.’ Is your name written there? Are you ready for his coming? If not, will you turn to him [Christ] and be saved now?”
Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.