The Call for Faithfulness in a Dreadful World
If we know anything from the Book of Revelation, it is that in the end time things are going to get worse before they ever get better. Indeed, matters are going to get downright awful. But we are still reminded that our Lord is on His throne, the same one He was on at the beginning of Revelation, and we are called to heed and obey His sovereign will when He says: “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.”
Chapter thirteen is another that has lent itself to varying interpretations, but it seems to tell us that at the end of time, a world system will arise that will have immense authority and power over all the earth. This is the first beast. The description fits what other passages of Scripture identify as the Antichrist who exalts himself, speaks great blasphemies, and calls himself divine (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). A second beast presents himself as well and directs people to worship the first beast. If the first beast is an all-powerful government led by a terrible Antichrist, the second beast seems to be the ministry of propaganda whose task is to deceive people into following the first beast. This second beast is sometimes called the “false prophet.”
We have seen such things before – tyrants who frighten or awe people into worship, or at least near worship, of their power. The history of the world is littered with Hitlers, Stalins, and Maos. But the appeal of the Antichrist will be far greater, and his powers in this technological age of ours far more vast. What is truly terrifying and sad is the way the world will follow him, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” All who dwell on the earth will worship it, and even receive a mark identifying their loyalty to the beast; that is, all except those whose names were written in the Lamb’s book of life “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
And why will so many follow the beast? Because they “refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore, God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). God justly hands the wicked over to their own darkened imaginations (Romans 1:24, 26, 28). Let the Church of God pray for discernment, for the time is short, and the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).