While the Book of Revelation is a prophetic book (as all other Books in the Bible), it also takes time to revisit the birth of Jesus Christ. John sees a vision of ‘a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head’ (Revelation 12:1). The appearance of the woman symbolizes that she was carrying the glory of God. ‘She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth’ (v2). Then, ‘an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads’ (v3) ‘stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he may devour her child the moment it was born’ (v5). His plan failed and the woman ‘gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne’ (v5). This vision that John sees describes the birth of Christ, which was foretold before the foundation of the world. He then sees the war in heaven whereby Satan, the dragon, ‘was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him’ (v9). Satan was already too late in his mission because, ‘Now have come salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ’ (v10).
However, this spiritual truth remained hidden from the inhabitants of the earth, until Christ was revealed. And so it was declared, ‘woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short’ (v12). The dragon who ‘was enraged at the woman . . . went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus’ (v17). This is in alignment to what God later decreed to Satan who manifested as the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, ‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel’ (Genesis 3:15). And so a war ensued, and still ensues, between Satan and the human race. However, Jesus crushed Satan’s head by subduing his authority, so that those who believe in Him, ‘overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death’ (Revelation 12:11). While many Believers acknowledge the blood of the Lamb and speak out their testimonies, Jesus also reminds that the final straw that breaks Satan’s back, is willingness not to shrink from death. Because in the last days, death would come to the Saints – and not the natural kind.
John sees in a vision that in the latter days, Satan, the dragon will reveal himself as a beast. He ‘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’ (13:v1). In other words, Satan, the dragon will manifest himself in different ways, but all will be contrary to God’s ways and laws, that is why each of his head (powers) had a blasphemous name. ‘The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority’ (v2). This goes against spiritual ‘logic’, because Satan is using the last of his powers to take many under his control. Jesus says, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?’ (Matthew 12:25-26). Satan’s kingdom can never stand because it is already divided. Jesus, in defeating the power of sin and death – the major power the devil held, crushed his head. So, John in the vision notes, ‘One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed’ (Revelation 13:3).
The beast, a product of Satan and his divided kingdom, was ‘given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies’ (v5), and ‘was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them’ (v7). Already, the workings of the beast are evident as many are delusional and utter words against God. The media, Internet, movies, songs, and other communication channels constantly outpour blasphemies, which now is normal. The power of the beast to make war against the saints is also closing in. In fact, Christians in some parts of the world are killed because of their faith. However, in the last days, this will be normalized and will be practised not in some parts of the world, but in all the nations of the earth. Because the beast, Satan, ‘was given to authority over every tribe, people, language and nation’ (v7). Christians will go into captivity and be killed by the sword. Paul even reminds us that, ‘In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood’ (Hebrews 12:4). Thus, the beast, will use death to make people denounce their faith, in hopes that many will believe the lie and forget Jesus’ words; ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both the soul and body in hell’ (Matthew 10:28). The beast will be given full reign in the world for a period of time, and will try to make many trade their faith in Jesus, for their lives. Those who remember that Jesus defeated death will not prefer their lives, but hold on to their faith. And so, ‘This calls for faithful endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints’ (Revelation 13:10).
Satan’s twisted and divided kingdom is evident, because yet another beast will be revealed. The beast, however, will come as a façade, ‘for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). John in a vision sees the devil symbolised as a beast which ‘had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon’ (Revelation 13:11). Unlike the first beast which made war against Believers, the second beast ‘performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven in full view of men’ (v13). Jesus warns of this manifestation of the beast, of Satan, saying, ‘For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible’ (Matthew 24:24). These false prophets ‘come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves’ (7:v15). Hence, the beast appeared like a lamb but spoke like a dragon. But many will ignore that what they say, is not in full alignment with Scripture, because of the deception of the outward signs and wonders displayed.
Soon, the beast will reveal his true colours- his very image, as ‘he ordered them to set up an image in honour 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 13:14-15). Using another tactic of the image of the beast and the miracles performed, Satan will still use threat of death as the end goal. The first beast given life will ‘also force 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’ (v16-17). Right hand symbolizes ability, and forehead openness to receive God’s Word. So everyone will be forced to worship the beast, or their abilities and livelihoods will be taken away, and God’s Word will be muted. No wonder Jesus says, ‘See I have told you ahead of time’ (Matthew 24:25), because only by His Word, will one endure when such perilous times occur.
John concludes by saying, ‘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 13:18). Many have taken great pains to actually calculate the number of the beast and drawn many conclusions, without a consensus to what this actually means. However, the beast which had seven heads, only six were operative, as one was already crushed, as predicted in Genesis, and fulfilled at the coming of Christ. The six heads symbolise the six-fold tactics that the beast will impose in the world. The six tactics are man’s number, or rather the world systems and policies set in place that Satan will use to replicate and enforce his authority on earth, hence 666. Wisdom will be of use, for it helps one see in advance the workings of the beast (which have already began) in order to better ready themselves. Jesus says, ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door’ (Matthew 24:32-33). Preparation can be done by study of Scripture and being rooted in Jesus, as those who do not know will be taken by surprise, because the beast rule ushers in the coming of Christ. ‘And they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man’ (Matthew 24:39).