Forum Class, Daniel #5
Since the Jewish captivity into Babylon and the Fall of Jerusalem on the 9th of Av, 586 BC, there has been no legitimate king in Israel. There have been no Jewish temples nor any blood sacrifices in Jerusalem since 70 AD. The focus of God's dealings with mankind since Daniel's time has been on the gentile (non-Jewish) nations of the world. Israel has been mostly under foreign dominion. Jesus said of this time period of history, "Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24b) According to Daniel, until the return of Jesus Christ to rule as earth's king on the throne of his father David, world affairs would be dominated by only four successive (complex) world empires. We first met these powers: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome in Daniel Chapter 2. In Daniel Chapters 7-8 these same world powers are reintroduced to us in the symbolic form of wild beasts. The period of history encompassed in these prophetic passages extends from 586 BC down to the end of the age we live in now. When Jesus returns, the kingdom He establishes everywhere on earth will be radically different from any prior kingdom among men.
The little horn of Daniel Chapter 7:8, 24-26, is clearly a
world political and military man who will arise out of the world
empire of the Fourth Beast at the end of the present age. This
man corresponds to "the beast out of the sea" depicted
in Revelation 13. The very evil man emerging in Daniel 8 is an
historically known figure, Antiochus Epiphanes IV. But he also
prefigures "the beast out of the land" in Revelation
13. The latter will evidently be a charismatic religious leader
in Israel who will command the world to be subject to the first
beast. This latter man is evidently a long-expected Jewish false
messiah. Jesus said, "I have come in my Father's name and
you [Israel] would not receive me. Another will come in his own
name--him you will receive." Jesus called attention to this
man in the Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24:15. (Ray Stedman's notes
on the Olivet Discourse, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/olivet/oliv03.html,
are relevant. See also Ray on Revelation 13, below).
"The king referred to here [See Daniel 8:9ff] is known as Antiochus IV Epiphanes. After murdering his brother, who had inherited the throne in the Seleucid dynasty, he came to power in 175 B.C. In 170 B.C. Ptolemy VI of Egypt sought to recover territory then ruled over by Antiochus. So Antiochus invaded Egypt and defeated Ptolemy VI and proclaimed himself king in Egypt. This was his growth "in power to the south" (v. 9). On his return from this conquest, trouble broke out in Jerusalem, so he decided to subdue Jerusalem ("the. Beautiful Land," v. 9; cf. 11:16,41). The, people were subjugated, the temple desecrated, and the temple treasury plundered.
From this conquest Antiochus returned to Egypt in 168 but was forced by Rome to evacuate Egypt. On his return he determined to make the land of Israel a buffer state between himself and Egypt. He attacked and burned Jerusalem, killing multitudes (cf. 8:10). The Jews were forbidden to follow the Mosaic Law in observing the Sabbath, their annual feasts, and traditional sacrifices, and circumcision of children (cf. v. 11). Altars to idols were set up in Jerusalem and on December 16, 167 B.C. the Jews were ordered to offer unclean sacrifices and to eat swine's flesh or be penalized by death. (Though his friends called him Epiphanes ["the Illustrious One"] no wonder the Jews called him Epimanes ["the Madman"]
Antiochus' desecration of the temple was to last 2,300 evenings and mornings before its cleansing (8:14). Some take the 2,300 evenings and mornings to mean 2,300 days, that is, a little more than six years. In this interpretation, the six years were from Antiochus' first incursion into Jerusalem (170 B.C.) to the refurbishing and restoring of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in late 164. A second interpretation seems preferable. Rather than each evening and each morning representing a day, the reference may be to evening and morning sacrifices, which were interrupted by Antiochus' desecration (cf. "the daily sacrifice," vv. 11-21). With two sacrifices made diary, the 2,300 offerings would cover 1150 days or three years (of 360 days each) plus 70 days. This is the time from Antiochus' desecration of the temple (December 16, 167 B.C.) to the refurbishing and restoring of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in late 164 and on into 163 B.C. when all the Jewish sacrifices were fully restored and religious independence gained for Judah. Which. ever interpretation it is that one accepts, the figure of 2,300 was a literal one and so the time period was literally fulfilled.
There is no question among expositors that Antiochus is in view in this prophecy. What was prophesied was fulfilled literally through him. However, the prophecy looks beyond Antiochus to a future person (the Antichrist) of whom Antiochus is only a foreshadowing. This coming one is said to "stand against the Prince of princes" (v. 25). This can be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the prophecy must go beyond Antiochus and look forward to the coming of one whose ministry will parallel that of Antiochus. From Antiochus certain facts can be learned about the forthcoming desecrator: (1) He will achieve great power by subduing others (v. 24). (2) He will rise to power by promising false security (v. 25). (3) He will be intelligent and persuasive (v. 23). (4) He will be controlled by another (v. 24), that is, Satan. (5) He will be an adversary of Israel and subjugate Israel to his authority (v. 24-25). (6) He will rise up in opposition to the Prince of princes, the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 25). (7) His rule will be terminated by divine judgment (v. 25). So it may be concluded that there is a dual reference in this striking prophecy. It reveals Israel's history under the Seleucids and particularly under Antiochus during the time of Greek domination, but it also looks forward to Israel's experiences under Antichrist, whom Antiochus foreshadows." (Notes from The Bible Knowledge Commentary by Walvoord and Zuck).
The Times of the Gentiles
Notes from Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah, http://www.ariel.org, 2004)
Daniel 7 Summary: "After giving the time and location of the four visions (v. 1), in verses 2-6 the first vision is described. It begins with a vision of the Great Sea (the Mediterranean), representing the Gentile world (Is. 17: 12-13; Mat. 13:47-50; Rev. 13:1; 17:1, 15), troubled by the four winds (v. 2). The number is the same as the Gentile empires, while the winds themselves point to God's sovereignty and providence. Suddenly, four beasts arise from this sea, each one different from the other (v. 3). All four are Gentile and all four arise out of the Mediterranean area.
The first beast is eagle-winged and lion-like (v. 4), representing the Babylonian Empire Jer. 4:7; 48:40; 49:19, 22; 50:17,44; Ezek. 17:3). The latter part of verse four is probably a reference to Nebuchadnezzar's experience recorded in Daniel 4:1-37. As much as possible that a man could become a beast, Nebuchadnezzar became one; as close as a beast could become a man, so did Babylon eventually lose its beast-like nature. Babylon eventually lost its beast-like nature as it moved from lust of conquest to the building of culture.
The second beast is bear-like and represents the Medo-Persian Empire (v. 5). The bear is lopsided, being raised up on one side; for although the Medes and the Persians were confederate, the Persians were by far the dominant power and it was a lopsided alliance. Furthermore, the bear is found to have three ribs in its mouth, having devoured the flesh. Historically, these three ribs represent the three kingdoms conquered by the Medo-Persian forces giving them their empire status: Lydia, Babylonia, and Egypt. The bear is less majestic than the lion and is bulky and weighty. Medo-Persia conquered by sheer force of numbers.
The third beast is leopard-like, representing the Hellenistic Empire (v. 6). The leopard is also less majestic than the lion and less grand than the bear but is swifter than both. With leopard-like speed Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persian Empire and greatly extended the Hellenistic Empire. At his death, however, the empire split into four kingdoms. The four wings represent the four kingdoms rising out of Alexander's empire, and the four heads represent the four generals who took control of the four kingdoms: Ptolemy over Egypt, Israel and Arabia Petrea; Seleucus over Syria, Babylonia, and as far east as India; Cassander over Macedonia and Greece; and Lysimachus over Thrace and Bithynia.
The second vision, found in verses [Daniel 7} 7-8, describes the fourth beast. Unlike the others, it is nondescript. While the others are given animal-like descriptions, none is given for this one. This fourth beast is described as being diverse, emphatically different from all the others. It completely subdues and breaks in pieces all that precedes it. It appears as far more ferocious than the previous three empires. The fourth beast has ten horns. But while it begins with ten horns, an eleventh horn arises, the little horn, that uproots three of the ten others. Having uprooted the other three, it begins to speak great things. With the uprooting of three horns, seven of the original remain, and the little horn is now an eighth, rather than an eleventh. Once again, as in Daniel two, the uniqueness of the Fourth Empire is emphasized; it is stated that this empire will go through several stages. The interpretation will be discussed later. But for now it is enough to note that the fourth beast does represent a Fourth Gentile Empire.
The third vision is found in verses 9- I 2. This third vision takes place in Heaven. In verses 9-10 the vision is of the Throne of God the Father, Who is described under the title of the Ancient of Days. He is viewed as a judge, and the book of judgment is opened. He is surrounded by myriads of angels who will be responsible to carry out these judgments. What is being judged is the Fourth Gentile Empire (v. 11-12). In verse 11, it is the fourth beast, particularly the little horn, that is judged and destroyed. As for the other three (v. 12), two things are stated: first, their dominion was taken away; and second, their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. The exact meaning of this will be discussed under the third passage relating to the Times of the Gentiles. The third vision is of God the Father, ready to move out in judgment against the Fourth Empire.
Verses 13-14 contain the fourth vision. It describes the setting up of the Kingdom of God following the destruction of the Fourth Gentile Empire. The sequence is that of the Second Coming (v. 13) followed by the Messianic Kingdom (v. 14).
Having described the four visions which he saw, which present essentially the same overview of the four Gentile empires as was found in Daniel two, he now gives the interpretation in verses 15-27. The major emphasis will be upon the Fourth Empire.
After Daniel requests the interpretation, in verses 15-16, he is given a summary interpretation in verses 17-18. In verse 17, Daniel is told that these four beasts represent four kingdoms. Nevertheless, it is the servants of the Most High who will possess the kingdom, for whatever will be possessed by the four Gentile empires will be only temporary (v. 18). Whereas earlier the four beasts arose our of the sea, here they arise our of the earth. Coming out of the sea emphasizes their Gentile identity. Arising out of the earth emphasizes their humanity: these are human, not divine, kingdoms.
Having received this summary interpretation, in verses 19-22 Daniel requests further interpretation regarding the fourth beast. In making this request Daniel further describes what he saw regarding the fourth beast. In verse 19, its diverseness is pointed out. It is important to note how the diverseness of the Fourth Empire is continually emphasized. For this diverseness Daniel seeks a meaning. He further wishes to know the meaning of the ten horns (v. 20a) and finally the little horn (v. 20b-22). In requesting this, Daniel gives further information regarding the activity of the little horn: he causes three of the ten horns to fall (v. 20b); he speaks great things (v. 20c); he wars against the saints and is allowed to prevail over them (v. 21). But finally he is personally defeated by the coming of the Ancient of Days. Once the judgment is passed on the little horn by the Ancient of Days, he will be done away with and the kingdom will pass over to the saints.
Having made his request, in verses 23-26 Daniel is given the interpretation of the fourth beast. As in Daniel two, the Fourth Empire is seen as going through several stages, though not always the same stages as found in chapter two. In verse 23a, the Fourth Empire is seen in its United Stage. and it is in this first stage that its diverseness from the previous three empires is seen. This is followed by the second stage, that of a one-world government, for in verse 23b it states that the Fourth Empire will devour the whole earth. This will be followed by the Ten Kingdom Stage (v. 24a) which, in turn, will be followed by the little horn, or the Antichrist Stage (v. 24b-26). These verses state that he arises after the Ten Division Stage (v. 24b). While the Fourth Empire is diverse from the previous three, the little horn is diverse from the other ten (v. 24c). He eventually puts down three of these kings (v. 24d). Verse 25 again points out his speaking great things as seen here in his speaking against God and against the saints. He seeks to change the times and the seasons, and he will be allowed to rule for only a time, times, and half a time, which from other passages (Dan. 9:27; 12:7; Rev. 11:2,3; 12:6, 14; 13:5) means 3.5 years. But finally his domination is destroyed (v. 26).
With the destruction of the little horn, the Messianic Kingdom is set up for the saints (v. 27). The saints in Daniel refers to righteous Israel, or the Remnant of Israel, and not to the Church. The chapter ends with Daniel's conclusion regarding his reaction to what he has just seen (v. 28). Daniel seven, then, further develops with greater detail what was given in chapter two, especially in relation to the Fourth Empire. In chart form the information found in chapter seven could be viewed as follows:
I. The Babylonian Empire
2. The Medo-Persian Empire
3. The Hellenistic Empire
a. The United Stage
b. The Four Division Stage
4. The Fourth Empire
a. The United Stage
b. The One World Government Stage
c. The Ten Division Stage
d. The Antichrist Stage
5. The Messianic Kingdom
C. Summary and Combination of Daniel Chapters Two and Seven
In order to clearly understand the Times of the Gentiles, the two chapters of Daniel two and seven must be compared before looking at the two other passages involved. Daniel two and seven describe the four Gentile empires, with an emphasis on the last, which goes through several stages. Outlined side-by-side, the comparison would be as follows:
In most of the features the two passages present the same thing. Both agree that there are to be four Gentile empires, one following the other, culminating with the destruction of the Fourth Empire by the Messiah and the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom. Both passages point out the diverseness of the fourth kingdom and the fact that it goes through several stages. It is in these stages that there is a slight difference between the two texts.
Daniel two shows three stages of the Fourth Empire, two of which are mentioned by Daniel seven. Daniel seven mentions four stages of the Fourth Empire, two of which are mentioned by Daniel two. Combining the two charts together, they would be viewed as follows:
I. The Babylonian Empire
2. The Medo-Persian Empire
3. The Hellenistic Empire
a. The United Stage
b. The Four Division Stage
4. The Fourth Empire
a. The United Stage
b. The Two Division Stage
c. The One World Government Stage
d. The Ten Division Stage
e. The Antichrist Stage
5. The Messianic Kingdom
1. The Summary of the First Three Empires
The first empire is the Babylonian Empire, which included the head of gold and the lion-like beast. Different aspects of this empire are depicted by Daniel 1:1-5:30 and 7:4. The second empire is the Medo-Persian Empire, represented by the arms and breast of silver and the bear-like beast. Different aspects of this empire are described in Daniel 2:39a; 5:31-6:28; 7:5; 8:1-7; and 10:1-11:2. This is followed by the third empire, the Hellenistic Empire, represented by the belly of brass and the leopard-like beast. It started out as a unit under Alexander the Great but split into four divisions at his death. This empire is subject to considerable revelation in Daniel 2:39b; 7:6; 8:7-27; and 11:3-35.
2. The Fourth Empire--Imperialism
This is followed by the Fourth Empire, which is emphasized as being diverse from all the others. Daniel describes this empire in 2:40-43; 7:712, 19-27; 9:27; and 11 :36-45. It goes through five different stages, with Rome being merely the first of these five stages, for Rome cannot be viewed as the entire Fourth Empire. What made the Fourth Empire, beginning with Rome, different from all the previous empires? The key difference was in the type of government initiated by Rome, which was a government of imperialism. When the Babylonians conquered an area, they did not set up Babylonian rulers, but set up nationals to rule. In its conquest of Judah, Babylon first set up Zedekiah, and later Gedaliah was appointed to rule. Under Medo-Persia the same thing was done, and Jewish governors such as Zerubbabel and Nehemiah ruled. The Hellenists worked in the same way. Instead of sending in Greeks to rule, they allowed the Jewish high priests to rule throughout the period of Greek domination.
But Rome began a new system called imperialism. This is what made the Fourth Empire diverse from all the others. When Rome conquered, Romans were sent in to rule (e.g., Pontius Pilate, Felix, Festus). This was the policy of imperialism. Thus, a better name for the Fourth Empire would be "imperialism" rather than Rome, for Rome was merely the first of five stages of the Fourth Empire of Imperialism. Hence, the Fourth Empire will be referred to as the Imperialistic Empire.
Both Daniel passages make it clear that the Fourth Gentile Empire begins with the end of the third and continues until Messiah comes to set up His Kingdom. The long continuous existence of the Imperialistic Empire is to go through five successive stages, and it is now necessary to study the five stages individually in order to see where history fits in this development.
a, The United Stage-Rome
The first stage was the United Stage, which was the Roman Empire. While it has been common to call the Fourth Gentile Empire by that name, it is only true of the first stage of the Gentile Empire of Imperialism. It has become customary to think in terms of a revival of the old Roman Empire, but no such concept is really warranted. It is more consistent to simply follow through the five stages with the Roman empire being the first stage. or the United Stage, which lasted from 63 B.C. to A.D. 364. Neither of the Daniel passages allows for gaps or for a revival of the Old Roman Empire.
b. The Two Division Stage
The second stage of the Empire of Imperialism was the Two Division Stage. This stage was foreseen by Daniel two. but not by Daniel seven. It is a stage that began in A.D. 364 when Emperor Valentinian divided the Roman Empire into an east and west division.' From that point on. the Empire of Imperialism was divided into an east-west balance of power. Since then. history continued to develop essentially in an east-west balance of power. It began in A.D. 364 with the Western Roman Empire headquartered in Rome and the Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople. In the original division of the east-west axis, these two cities controlled the balance of power. Since then the centers of the balance of power have shifted. but it has remained an east-west division.
The eastern division of power remained in Constantinople until 1453, when it collapsed in the Turkish invasion. When Constantinople fell. the political rulers. scribes, and scholars fled northward into Russia and infiltrated the government there, setting up a Roman type of government (imperialism). The rulers called themselves Czars, which is Russian for "Caesar." After a while, Russia gave herself the official title of the Third Roman Empire. Eventually. the eastern balance of power was centered in the Soviet Union and included the Communist block of nations. With the collapse of European communism. the eastern balance shifted to Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). At the time of this writing. things are still shifting, with Islam becoming a major eastern power. However, the shifting is still going on and only time will determine how things will settle in the eastern balance of power. [Note: There was an earlier division in A.D. 285 that was short-lived and the empire was reunited under Constantine in A.D. 312-313. The division in A.D. 364 was permanent.]
The western division of power remained in Rome from 364 to 476, when Rome fell. From there it shifted to France, especially with the power gained by Charlemagne in A.D. 800. He called his domain the Holy Roman Empire of the Frankish Nation. In 962, Otto I of Germany defeated the Franks and set up the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The leaders named themselves Kaisers, which is German for "Caesar." Since then, especially after World War I. the western balance of power has been centered in the democratic nations of the west.
So then, in 364 the Two Division Stage began and continues to the present day. The centers of the balance of power may shift again, but it will remain essentially an east-west balance until it gives way to the third stage.
c. The One World Government Stage
The next three stages of the Empire of Imperialism are all future. At some point the East-West Balance of Power will break down. leading to a one-world government. This stage is seen by Daniel seven. but not by Daniel two. Daniel 7:23 clearly states that at some point the Fourth Empire devours the whole earth. This is something that Rome never did. Some attempt to make this expression mean the "then known world," but it cannot be said that Rome even conquered the then-known world. As soon as one empire conquers up co a certain point of territory, it is very obvious that there is more to follow beyond that. So it is foolish to say that Rome conquered the then known world. Rome did not even extend as far east as the empire of Alexander the Great. The Greeks went as far as the Indus River in India, and Alexander would have gone further except for the refusal of his generals who wished to go no further. But even the area beyond the Indus River was part of the then-known world. Rome did not even extend that far. Furthermore. Rome never fully conquered the Parthian Empire. and that, too, was part of the known world. The area of Scotland was also part of the known world that Rome did not conquer. Rome had to build the Hadrian Wall in order to keep the nomads of northern Scotland from overrunning that part of Britain controlled by Rome. So by no means did Rome conquer the whole known world. Furthermore, other usages of the word in the Old Testament clearly teach universality (Gen. 8:9; 9:19; 11:1; Is. 6:3; 14:26; 28:22; 54:5; Jet. 15:10; Zech. 4:10.14). Although in Daniel 2:39 the word is used of the Hellenistic Empire. it only states that such authority was given to it as it was to Babylon in Daniel 2:37-38, and neither of these two empires chose to exercise this authority.
In the case of the Fourth Empire, the wording states that it will devour the whole earth. The text demands that the Fourth Empire will at some time control the whole world and will devour it. So if literal interpretation is maintained, then the Fourth Empire of Imperialism is yet to control the whole world in the formation of a one-world government, which is something that has not yet been accomplished. For this reason Rome must not be seen as the totality of the Fourth Empire, but only as the first stage of the Empire of Imperialism. The third stage, which will be the One World Government Stage, will happen at some point when the Two Division (east-west) Stage collapses
d. The Ten Division Stage
This stage was seen in both Daniel two in the ten toes and in Daniel seven in the ten horns. The Ten Division Stage is clearly stated to come our of the One World Government Stage. For some reason not given by the text, the One World Government will divide into ten kingdoms that will cover the whole world-not merely Europe. It has become common today to refer to the ten kingdoms as being in Europe only, especially the Former Common Market, now the European Union. But the text does not allow for this kind of interpretation. At the very best, the European Union might become one of the ten, but it could hardly become all of the ten. A careful reading of the Daniel passage states that once the Fourth Empire rules the whole world, then this One World Government will split into ten kingdoms. This requires the ten kingdoms to cover the entire world, not just the territory known as Europe. It would be a mistake to make too much of the European Union as being the Ten Division Stage. It would be far more consistent with the text to view it as possibly one of the ten, but not the entire ten. More consistent with Daniel's prophecy is the recommendation of the Club of Rome that the world be divided into ten administrative districts to avoid a world economic collapse
e. The Antichrist Stage
It is during the Ten Kingdom Stage that the Antichrist will begin his rise to power. Eventually, he will be strong enough to uproot three of the ten kings, and the other seven will simply submit to his authority. Once the other seven submit their authority to the Antichrist, this will begin the fifth and final Stage of the Fourth Gentile Empire, the Antichrist Stage, which is the stage of Absolute Imperialism. In this sense he is diver" from the other ten
The combined chart seen earlier on the two chapters in Daniel can now be redone with the added information as follows:
1. The Babylonian Empire
2. The Medo-Persian Empire
3. The Hellenistic Empire
a. The United Stage
b. The Four Division Stage
4. The Fourth Empire--The Empire of Imperialism
a. The United Stage--The Roman Empire
b. The Two Division Stage--The East-West Balance of Power
c. The One World Government Stage
d. The Ten Division Stage-The Ten Kingdoms
e. The Antichrist Stage-Absolute Imperialism
5. The Messianic Kingdom
With this information in hand, it is now necessary to consider the other two passages dealing with the Times of the Gentiles.
D. Revelation 13:1-10
At this point it is only necessary to deal with it as it relates to the Times of the Gentiles. In verses 1-2 John describes the Beast that comes out of the sea. The sea in Revelation 13 is the same as the one in Daniel seven, which represents the Gentile world. Daniel two surveyed all the four empires. Daniel seven summarized the four empires, and then focused its attention on the Fourth Empire of Imperialism in its various stages. But Revelation 13 is completely focused on the Fourth Empire, emphasizing a particular stage of the Fourth Empire, namely, the fifth stage, the Antichrist Stage.
The Beast that John saw is the same beast that Daniel saw in chapter seven, where it was nondescript. But here the Beast is given a description. In verse one, the Beast has ten horns and seven heads. The ten horns are found in Daniel seven, and they represent the ten kingdoms, which is the fourth stage of the Empire of Imperialism. While the Ten Division Stage gives way to the fifth stage, the ten kingdoms continue to exist to the end. The difference between the two stages is that in the fourth stage the world is divided into ten kingdoms ruled co-equally by ten men, while in the fifth stage the world in all ten divisions is ruled by the Antichrist, and the other kings are subject to him. A new element is introduced by Revelation 13: the Beast has seven heads. The meaning of these seven heads will be explained in the fourth major passage, to be discussed later in this chapter.
In verse two, the Beast has a leopard-like body, bear-like feet, and a lion-like mouth. This, then, is the interpretation and explanation of the verse found in Daniel 7:12:
"And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time."
The dominion of the first three empires was over, but their lives were prolonged. Their lives were prolonged in that the previous empires left their influence on the Fourth Empire. From the Daniel seven passage it is clear that the leopard-like body represents the Hellenistic influence; the bear-like feet represents the Medo-Persian influence; and the lion-like mouth represents the Babylonian influence. Thus, while their dominion ended, their lives were prolonged.
In verses 3-10, the text concentrates on the fifth stage of the Fourth Empire, the Antichrist Stage. The details will be discussed later in a mote appropriate place, so a concise summary is all that will be needed here. In verse three, the death and resurrection of the Antichrist is viewed. One of the heads was smitten unto death and the death-stroke was healed. It is the seventh head that is smitten, and the full meaning of the head and heads will be discussed with the fourth major passage dealing with the Times of the Gentiles. In verse four, the worship of the Antichrist is described. In verses 5-7, the activities of the Antichrist are described, and they are similar to those recorded in Daniel seven: he speaks great things (v. 5a); he reigns with absolute control for 3.5 years (v. 5b); he blasphemes against all Heaven (v. 6); he wars against the saints (v. 7a) and the nations (v. 7b). In verse eight, the worship of the Antichrist is described again. The passage concludes in verses 9-10 with a warning to those who do so.
What is seen in Revelation 13 is the Fourth Gentile Empire of Imperialism in its fifth and final stage, the Antichrist Stage, and his activities in the second half of the Tribulation are described. The ten horns represent the ten kingdoms of the fourth stage which precede the fifth stage of the Antichrist. But chapter 13 adds the fact that this beast has seven heads, which is not mentioned in any of the previous passages dealing with the Times of the Gentiles. The fourth and final passage will focus on the seven heads.
E. Revelation 17:7-14
The fourth passage which deals with the Times of the Gentiles is Revelation 17:7-14: From verse seven it is clear that the Beast is the same as the one found in Revelation 13 and is the same as the fourth beast of Daniel seven. This beast has ten horns and seven heads. What the ten horns represent was explained earlier: the fourth stage of the Fourth Empire--the ten kingdoms. What is about to be explained is what the seven heads represent. In verse eight, as in Revelation 13, the death and resurrection of the Antichrist is described with the subsequent worship of him
Then verses 9-10 explain the meaning of the seven heads. Verse nine states that the seven heads are seven mountains. Unfortunately. too many Bible teachers have stopped here, ignored the following verse, and consequently concluded that the seven mountains represent Rome, for Rome is a city sitting upon seven hills. However, a number of cities in the Middle East claim to sit upon seven hills or mountains. So this is not enough to pinpoint Rome as the place to which this passage refers. But the identification with Rome becomes totally unwarranted if the verse is seen in its complete context. The fact that the seven heads are said to be seven mountains shows that these mountains are to be taken symbolically. As mentioned previously, whenever the word mountain is used symbolically, it is always a symbol of a king, kingdom, or throne. This is the case here. In fact, the very next verse, verse ten, actually interprets the meaning of the seven mountains. Verse nine does not end the sentence, since the sentence continues into verse ten. Having stated that the seven heads are seven mountains in verse nine, he clearly states in verse ten that these seven mountains represent something other than real mountains: and they are seven kings. The meaning of mountains here is quite consistent with its symbolic usage everywhere else in the Scriptures. In verse nine, the seven heads are seven mountains, and in verse ten the pronoun they clearly indicates that these seven mountains are to be viewed as seven kings. It is not Rome the city that is meant, but seven kings. Verse ten further states that of these seven heads-mountains-kings, five were fallen by John's day, one was present at that time, and one more was yet to come. If this refers to Rome the city, then five hills should no longer be in existence, only one should be there now, with another to arise in the future! Contextually then, this is an impossible interpretation.
While both the ten horns and seven heads are representative of kings, there is a difference between them. The ten horns are kings that are contemporary with each other. They all rise and reign at the same time. But the seven heads are chronological or sequential. One follows the other in chronological sequence, and no two are ever contemporary. At the time of the writing of the Revelation, five had already gone into history and were no more. The sixth head-mountain-king was present and in control, and there was one more to go.
With this information in hand, what these seven heads represent can be deduced from a study of history. As has already been said, the Fourth Empire is the Empire of Imperialism. This is what was present in John's day, and hence, imperialism represents the sixth head. It was also the time of the first stage of the Empire of Imperialism, the United Stage or the Roman Empire Stage. Looking at Roman history, it is known that Rome went through five types of governments before it developed into the first stage of the Empire of Imperialism. They are as follows:
|The Tarquin Kings
The Plebians or Dictators
The Republicans or Decimvers (Oligarchy of Ten)
494-390 B.C. 390-59 B.C.
| (The First Head)
(The Second Head)
(The Third Head)
(The Fourth Head)
(The Fifth Head)
These represent the five heads which are fallen and were a part of history by the time John wrote his book. Before the Fourth Gentile Empire of Imperialism developed, these five types of governments preceded it. The sixth head was the one that was then present, which began in the year 27 B.C. and will continue into the middle of the Tribulation period. So the sixth head includes the first four stages of the Fourth Gentile Empire of Imperialism.
There is one head still to come, that is, the seventh head, which is the Antichrist Stage and the stage of Absolute Imperialism. Once the seventh head is established, he must continue for a little while, namely 3.5, years. Thus, the seven heads represent a chronological development from the Tarquin Kings to Absolute Imperialism. Five heads are fallen, the sixth head of imperialism now exists, and one is yet to come, the Antichrist. [Note: An alternate view is that the five fallen heads represent five previous Empires: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. Rome is the sixth, with the Antichrist destined to be the seventh].
After the reference to his death and resurrection, John describes in verse 11 the position of the Antichrist as being an eighth, but of the seven. He is of the seven in that there are seven heads, and the Antichrist is the seventh head. The heads are chronological and sequential, coming one after the other, with the Antichrist being the last to appear in the final period of the history of the seven heads.
But he is also an eighth. In what way is he an eighth? This is seen in his relationship to the ten horns. The ten horns represent the ten kingdoms that come out of the One World Government. It is the fourth stage of the Fourth Gentile Empire of imperialism. These ten kings are contemporary and rule together. But as was seen from Daniel seven, when the Antichrist begins to take control, he uproots three of the ten horns. He kills three of the ten kings, leaving seven for the remainder of the Tribulation period. The Antichrist is contemporary with these seven, making him an eighth. He is an eighth contemporary king ruling over the other seven kings who have submitted to his authority. Yet he is of the seven, for he is the seventh head of the chronological ruling governments. The term "seven" refers to the heads, while the term "eight" refers to the horns.
The word beast in the Book of Revelation, then, is a reference to the Empire of Imperialism in its final and fifth stage, the Antichrist Stage. Hence, it is proper to view the Beast both as the Fourth Gentile Empire in its final stage as well as personally of the Antichrist himself. In the Book of Revelation, the word will be used in both senses: sometimes it will be used to describe the Fourth Gentile Empire as a whole in its fifth final form, while at other times it will be used to describe the Antichrist personally. In verses 12-13 the ten horns are discussed. In verse 12, the ten horns are stated to be ten kings and to exist in the future beyond John's time. In verse 13, they surrender their authority to the Antichrist. The details will be studied later. Finally, in verse 14 the Fourth Empire is destroyed by Messiah Himself."
Notes from Ray Stedman on Revelation 13:
...In [Revelation] Chapter 12, the Apostle John saw a great red dragon with seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns, which was clearly identified as a manifestation of Satan. Now, in Chapter 13, John sees a further manifestation of that same beast.
And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his 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 astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" (Revelation 13:1-4)
John saw this beast rising out of the sea, which, as we have seen several times in Revelation, is a symbol of the Gentile nations of the ancient world. This appearance is another manifestation of Satan as a worldwide evil power on the earth. In Chapter 12 the beast represented the Roman Empire of the 1st century and was the instrument of the devil to try to destroy the man-child that was born to the woman who symbolized Israel, i.e., Jesus himself. Here we see the same beast arising at a different time of history.
If you will read the seventh chapter of the prophet Daniel, you will find it ties closely to this chapter in Revelation. In that chapter, Daniel, too, saw beasts rising out of the sea, four of them. One was like a lion, another like a bear, and a third was like a leopard, the same symbols we find employed here by John. Along with those three beasts, Daniel saw a fourth beast, powerful but different looking than the other beasts, and with ten horns. In many ways, therefore, it was identical with the beast that John saw here. We learn in Daniel that the beasts he saw represented the four great world empires of his day and following: First was Babylon, like a lion; then Medo-Persia, like a bear; and then Greece, like a leopard with four heads. John picks up these same concepts and sees them incorporated in this beast from the sea that appears as his vision unfolds. The strange fourth beast is identifiable in history as the Roman Empire, with its capital in Rome. All of this is found combined into one beast which has, as it were, the lion-like ferocity of Babylon, the crushing bear-like power of Medo-Persia, and the swiftness of the Grecian leopard, but now appearing in the last days as a restored form of the Roman Empire, as we shall see.
I promised you that in Chapter 13 I would interpret the meaning of the horns, the heads and the crowns of this beast. A great deal more information is given to us about this beast in the 17th chapter of this book. Though I shall not attempt to expound that chapter at this point, yet I do want to turn to it and bring out some of the things that John identifies for us. In Chapter 17 John sees a woman sitting upon the red beast. I shall not deal with the woman now, but the red beast on which she sits has seven heads and ten horns, and an angel explains to him what these symbols mean. In 17:7, John writes:
Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. [That ties in with much we have seen already in Revelation.] The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come." (Revelation 17:7-8)
That plainly identifies it with the beast we are looking at in Chapter 13, where, also, the whole world is said to be astonished by what has happened to this beast. The phrase in Chapter 17, "the beast who once was, now is not, and yet will come," seems to tie in with what we have read in Chapter 13, Verse 3, "One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed." If, as we have suggested, this beast represents the same Roman Empire that John saw before, this is telling us there will come a revived form of the empire in the world during this last seven-year period of the history of civilization. Many scholars have pointed out that the Bible predicts a restoration, what might well be called a Revised Roman Empire, to emerge in Western Europe in those days. Again in Chapter 17, the angel goes on in Verse 9 to explain further.
"This calls for a mind with wisdom [Each of you has that, of course!]. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits." (Revelation 17:9)
A little later in this chapter the woman is identified as a great city. What city sits upon seven hills? Everyone in the ancient world (and everyone in the modern world) knows the answer! It is Rome. Once again we have a clear indication that the city of Rome will come prominently into the picture of these last days. Now the angel adds:
"They are also seven kings [or kingdoms]. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction." (Revelation 17:10-11)
That is clear, is it not? Clear as mud! But there are some things we can identify out of this revelation. We are told concerning these seven kings, "five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come." The Roman historian, Livy, wrote that there had been five forms of Roman government up to his time. Rome originally began as a loosely-connected series of regional city-states, each one governed by a king. This soon fell apart and instead of kings they elected consuls. As the consuls fell upon difficult times they were succeeded by dictators, leaders from the people who would rise up and take over the government. These in turn were overthrown and replaced by what the Romans called decemvirs, a term that means a council of ten rulers. Eventually that form, too, failed and tribunes were elected by the people to rule the land. Those were the five forms of government that had fallen.
But John is told "one is." That would be the imperial form, the emperors of Rome, beginning with Julius Caesar, before Christ, and continuing in a long series that history records as stretching well into the 4th century. Now, says the angel, a seventh is yet to come, and "he must remain for a little while." Then the beast will appear. He will be one of the seven, revived, and thus constitute an eighth. Something strange happens to it. It is called back into existence. "Its deadly wound is healed" and, thus, it makes its reappearance in history. No wonder the whole world is astonished at this revival. When we come to expound the 17th chapter in due course we shall learn some very startling things about the imperial form of Roman government. I shall read but one more verse from Chapter 17 at the moment. In Verse 12, the angel says:
"The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. (Revelation 17:12)
Bible scholars sometimes talk about a revived Roman Empire to be made up of 10 nations who will give their authority to a single individual. This satanically controlled man will rule in the geographic area of the old Roman Empire. That is why many people have been watching what is happening in Europe today, not only the ferment and upheavals of Eastern Europe, but also the changes in Western Europe, the site of the old Roman Empire. There, nations are softening their nationalistic passions and seeking to unite together in a United States of Europe. Some commentators have sought to identify this ten-kingdomed coalition with the European Common Market, or the European Economic Community (EEC). For awhile that organization did have ten members, but it has now increased to twelve or thirteen, so it is evident that it is not the actual revived empire, but it may be a predecessor. What is clear is that the direction of movement is toward the very thing we read of here. There will come a coalition of nations in Western Europe. Let us now go back to Chapter 13, and look at the activities of this strange beast.
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months [We have seen that time-frame before]. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven [literally "those who tabernacle in heaven"]. (Revelation 13:5-6)
Blasphemy is not cursing. When you hear someone rip off a round oath that is not blasphemy. It is cursing. Blasphemy is to claim godlike powers, to claim to be God, or to identify God with lesser persons or objects. Idolatry, for instance, is blasphemy. That is what this individual becomes guilty of. He blasphemes God by claiming to have the powers of God, as we have seen. It would also involve an attack upon those who do not accept his claims. He ridicules and slanders those who do believe in God and in heaven (the unseen spiritual realm that exists), and whose thinking is centered upon and guided by the teaching of the Word of God. Those who thus "tabernacle in heaven" are not people who have died and gone to heaven. They are saints who live on the earth but whose lives are governed by heavenly realities. It is exactly what the apostle says about the church today. "Our citizenship," he says in Philippians, "is in heaven," (Phil 3:20). We are strangers and sojourners on earth, but our true citizenship is in heaven. Let us read on.
He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth [literally "all the earth dwellers"] will worship the beast -- all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. (Revelation 13:7-8)
The revived Roman leader is given great power. He is allowed to do fearful things, and thousands will die at his hand because of their faith. This agrees exactly with what we saw in Chapter 7, where the great multitude which no man could number come out of the tribulation from all nations and languages and tribes and people -- a group that "washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white" (cf, Revelation 7:14) and became martyrs for the cause of Jesus Christ. This is the group that is mentioned here. This leader's influence extends throughout the whole earth. It does not mean he actually rules over the whole earth but rather that his influence extends throughout it. It is very much like the Super Powers of our day. The influence of the United States and of Russia affects every nation on earth today because of the power and might these two nations represent. It will also be the case then.
There will be one class of people who will follow this leader blindly. They are called "those who dwell on the earth." We have seen this term before. It is a moral class, those who live for this world, who think only of the earth and its advantages, who are materialists and humanists, and who have no use for the things of God or the life beyond. There is one group that resists this leader, and that is those "who tabernacle in heaven," whose names are written, we are told here, "in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world." That is an amazing statement. We will say more about the book of life later on where it is mentioned again. I would like now to focus on the phrase, "the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world." That confirms again how time is not a factor in eternity. The death of the Lamb actually took place in time, on earth, at a specific date on the calendar, but here it is reckoned as an eternal event which has meaning for peoples from the very beginning of time, the creation of the world itself. The Lamb was slain, and the cross has impact upon all creation. Thus the Old Testament saints could be born again by faith because they were saved by the cross even though it had not yet occurred in history. John now picks up on the phrase that Jesus used frequently and gives a word of encouragement to the saints of that day.
He who has an ear, let him hear. (Revelation 13:9)
Jesus said this many times in his ministry. And, in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, in the seven letters to the churches the phrase occurs in each. By this exhortation Jesus is saying, "Listen carefully. Something important is about to be uttered." So John tell us what it is:
If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. (Revelation 13:10a NIV)
I am sorry to have to do this, but every now and then I must correct the translation of the New International Version. It is excellent in the Old Testament, but not as accurate in the New. But, since everybody uses it, I must too. If you have an, cross out the words "to go." "If anyone is to go into captivity"; and in the next line, "If anyone is to be killed with the sword," read it, "If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he will be killed." The verse means that if anyone takes others captive, he will himself become a captive (hostage). If anyone kills with the sword, he must himself be killed with the sword. It is a word of encouragement to the saints of that day. All over the earth people are being taken captive and are being killed. God is simply saying to the others, "Don't be discouraged, hang in there. Don't let this slaughter throw you." Notice how John puts it.
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness [or faith] on the part of the saints. (Revelation 13:10b)
The law of consequences cannot be endlessly evaded. God has not forgotten. It may look like evil has triumphed, everything has gone wrong, but hang in there. "God cannot be mocked," (Gal 6:7b). The law of consequences cannot be canceled. Sooner or later he who kills with the sword must himself be killed. He who takes hostages must himself be taken hostage. Wait for it! Now John sees another beast coming. We read of him in Verses 11-12:
Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. (Revelation 13:11-12)
This beast arises from the earth, used throughout the book as a symbol of Israel. That is why most biblical scholars say this man is probably a Jew. He comes from Israel and has "two horns like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon." He looks like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon. He is, therefore, a fake lamb, to put it bluntly. This is the Antichrist, the one who comes instead of Christ, who offers himself as though he were Christ. It is for this reason I believe the term Antichrist is properly applied to this second beast, although both beasts are anti-Christian in character. Horns speak of power, and this man has two lamb-like powers. Jesus also had these powers: the powers of a priest and of a prophet. This man acts as both. Jesus is a priest who leads men and women all over the world to worship the Father; and this individual is a priest, leading the world to worship the first beast.
Many have pointed out that we have here a kind of Satanic trinity -- the first beast corresponding to the Father, the false prophet corresponding to the Son, and the dragon himself, Satan, playing the role of the invisible Holy Spirit. It is Satan's imitation of the true God. The false priest accomplishes his aim in getting the world to worship the beast in a very remarkable way, described in 13 through 15.
He performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth [those who dwell on the earth]. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. (Revelation 13:13-15)
Here he acts as a prophet. The prophets of old did miracles to establish their credentials, their God-given authority. Moses and Elijah each did great miracles, and, as the two witnesses of Chapter 11, they call fire down from heaven. So this man must call fire from heaven. Paul tells us that the devil has the power to do miracles too. Thus we must not trust every miracle as though it were done by God. It may be the work of the enemy, the Evil One. This false prophet calls down fire out of heaven, and deceives the world by such means.
Many biblical scholars feel that, because he is a Jew, he has his headquarters in Jerusalem. I think that is highly likely. He is the one whom the prophet Daniel identifies as making a covenant with the Jews for one week (7 years), and thus solving the centuries-old problem of the Middle East, the enmity between the Arabs and Israelis. During the first half of that week, the temple will be rebuilt on Mount Moriah. We saw that briefly in Chapter 11. For a seven-year period the Jews believe they are allowed to re-establish their worship in the temple. But, Daniel says, this "prince who will come" (cf, Dan 9:26 KJV) shall break that covenant in the middle of the week, i.e. after three and a half years, and entering the temple himself, begin to exalt himself as God, as Paul describes in his letter to the Thessalonians.
Since the political leader of the western coalition is in Rome, this religious leader in Jerusalem seems to feel it necessary to create an image of the Roman leader and put it in the temple for the worship of the world. He is able, we are told, to give breath to that image to make it seem alive. In one of the exhibits in Disneyland you can find Abraham Lincoln sitting in a chair! He looks very real and while you are standing there he will get up out of the chair and walk over and talk to you! I shall never forget how impressive it was to see and hear Abraham Lincoln when I visited that exhibit! The technology to make an image of a man that seems to live and speak and walk, is already here. The whole world will doubtless run tour buses to worship it. It is not necessary that they really think it is a living person, but they will worship it because it represents a living person, and they will honor that impressive symbol in that day. By means of that image this false prophet will claim godlike powers for himself and the first beast, and will command the loyalty and obedience of all on the earth. In Verse 16 we learn this man also rebuilds the world's economic system.
He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. (Revelation 13:16-18)
Evidently during these days worldwide commerce will be rigidly controlled from a central headquarters. Again we know that the technology to do this is already in place. If you have a credit card you know that your entire credit information can be imprinted on that little metallic strip on the back so that whenever you present that card everyone will instantly know whether you are a cheapskate or that you pay your bills. You cannot hide. Furthermore, we are told that it can all be actually implanted in a tiny disk in the skin on the back of the hand or on the forehead or wherever desired, so that information about you can be read by passing your hand under a beam of light just as they do now in the supermarkets with the bar codes. The technology is already available. It is remarkable how we are apparently drawing close to these days.
The mark, of course, is Satan's imitation of God's seal on his own people. In Chapter 7 we learned that 144,000 from the tribes of Israel were sealed on their foreheads by God. That indicates they are owned by God, they belong to him. The Apostle Paul says that Christians are sealed today. Every believer in Christ is sealed by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God comes to dwell in us and he will never leave. It is the sign that we belong to God. "You are not your own ... you are bought with a price," (cf, 1 Cor 6:19b-20a). You cannot live your life for yourself anymore. You belong to God. Christians in the 1st century often had to make a public choice once a year between declaring "Caesar is Lord," or "Jesus is Lord." Many of them died because they would not say "Caesar is Lord." So there comes again a scheme devised by these two leaders to force people to declare whether they belong to the beast or to the Lord. Which will it be, "the Beast is Lord" or "Jesus is Lord?"
The mark that is mentioned is said to be either the name of the beast or the number of his name. It is referring to the first beast, not the second. The second is called later "the false prophet," (Revelation 16:3, 19:20, 20:10). Also the first beast is simply called "the beast." The mark is the name of that beast or its number. His name is unknown. It is never referred to, but the number is given -- 666.
Surely the most foolish thing you can do is to try to identify this person today by using number 666. You know, of course, that the ancient languages used letters for numbers. If you use Roman numerals today you use letters in place of numbers. The Greek language was similar. The letters have numerical value and many feel that when you add up the numerical value of certain names if it comes out to 666 that person must be the Antichrist. The problem is they try this with English letters. That is simply stupid, because you are working with the wrong language to start with. Also there is another excellent reason to view such a practice as foolish which I will show you in just a moment.
First let me give you a brief list of names that have been identified as the Antichrist by this means: Nero, of course, was one of the first. One of his predecessors as emperor was Caligula, the mad emperor, and his name supposedly adds up to 666. Then the successor to Nero was Domitian, and his name, with a little manipulation, can be added up in this way. So also was Mohammed, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, Martin Luther, various popes, and, of course, Adolf Hitler. Even poor Henry Kissinger had to bear this stigma, and now, of course, it is Gorbachev. It is really ridiculous to use this method because the clue given here is the important thing. Look what it says, "This calls for wisdom." No Tom, Dick, or Harry with a calculator can figure this out. This calls for wisdom! "If any one has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast."
Now here is the clue: "it is man's number." Not a man's number. It is man's number. It is the number associated with man. It is not an individual in view here at all. It reveals the character of the one who is talking and acting and living. If you see someone acting like God, claiming unusual powers, and teaching people that man is in charge of all things, that he can do anything, you are listening to a man, and his thinking reflects the number of man, 666. It is man's number. Eugene Peterson says something very helpful on this:
Expose these religious pretensions. This religion has nothing to do with God. Get its number: it is a human number. This is not divine mystery, but a confidence man's patter; it is religion that makes a show, religion that vaunts itself, religion that takes our eyes off of the poor and suffering and holy Christ. In the language of numbers, 666 is a triple failure to be a 777, the three-times perfect, whole, divine number.
So we see that John is showing us how the devil works. He attempts to organize behavior and from that always comes violence. When any government turns totalitarian and seeks to control every deed, every act, of its citizens, it produces a violent reaction. Turn on your television sets and you will see it in every news broadcast today. The Antichrist tries to organize belief as well as behavior, and when belief is organized it always produces deceit. There is nothing more deceitful than false religion. These are the weapons of Satan: He either intimidates or deceives. He has only two weapons, force and fantasy, lying and brutality, one or the other, or a mixture of both.
What this text is saying is that when he is violent, then wait, endure, be patient! God will work this all out. His rules will never be set aside. Sooner or later Satan's instrument will hang himself, as Judas did; he will be caught up in his own web. And when he lies, "Think," God says, "be critical, evaluate!" When anyone acts godlike, makes pretentious claims, claims supernatural gifts and demands obedience, that is not God talking. He is not from God. It is just a man, that is all, thinking and acting like a fallen man. It is not the real Lamb -- it is only a fake lamb, so laugh at him and refuse to follow him. But be prepared to hold out even unto death! That is the message of this chapter. I hope you can see how true this is, how it is confirmed by life around us every day. We are headed for these very things at a greater speed then we have ever seen before in the history of the world. (Ray C. Stedman, God's Final Word, from http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/revelation/4205.html)
June 1, 2004.
Ray Stedman's Commentary on Daniel: http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/daniel/
Lambert Dolphin's notes for this class, and mp3 audio, http://ldolphin.org/daniel/