Today’s reading: Revelation 13-16.
“How will we recognize the Antichrist?”
This post is about the mark of the beast. I mean that in two ways. There is the mark he requires on others, a brand of some sort that signifies allegiance to him. There is also the mark he makes on the world. He will work under the power and authority of Satan. He goes by many names. Daniel called him the ruler to come. Paul called him the man of sin, the son of perdition, that Wicked, and the man of lawlessness. John wrote of the spirit of antichrist. Revelation calls him the beast.
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 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 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 13:5-8
The mark he requires. The entire world must take the mark of the beast or face death. No one will be able to buy or sell without the mark. Christians will not take the mark if their names are in the book of life. The mark is the name of the Antichrist or the number of his name: 666.
- This could symbolize his demonic imperfection, as 777 would symbolize the perfection of the Trinity.
- It could be the sum of the numerical value of each letter in his name, a practice called gematria.
- The mark may signify money. The word for mark was used to describe the engraving of money. It may be an imbedded computer chip which is required to access credit. The mark will be used to control all commerce.
The mark he makes. The name of the beast remains a mystery for now, but his actions have been thoroughly predicted.
- He manipulates people and events to become ruler of the entire world. Daniel writes that he will overthrow three kings of a ten-king confederation, and that the other seven kings will then submit to his rule.
- He miraculously survives a mortal head wound.
- He makes a seven-year peace treaty, but at the midpoint he breaks the treaty, proclaims himself to be God, desecrates the Jewish temple, and begins a three and a half year reign of terror against all those who refuse to worship him.
- He employs a false prophet who oversees the false religion that idolizes him. The false prophet performs miracles and erects a statue of the beast that all must worship.
- He will lead a great army with the kings of the earth to battle against Jesus at Armageddon when the Lord returns.
Daniel described his rise and fall:
His power will be mighty, but not by his own power,
And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree
And prosper and perform his will;
He will destroy mighty men and the holy people.
And through his shrewdness
He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence;
And he will magnify himself in his heart,
And he will destroy many while they are at ease.
He will even oppose the Prince of princes,
But he will be broken without human agency. – Daniel 8:24-25
How should believers react to the prospect of such a terrible man and terrible time? Much of modern evangelical preaching claims that God will remove his people before this tribulation comes, but I am not convinced. Yes, God will spare us from his wrath poured out on the unbelieving world, but God’s people have continually suffered the wrath of Satan, and still do so today. Therefore I say let us arm ourselves with words of encouragement. The Antichrist is numbered, and so are his days. Believers are sealed with God’s mark, ensuring our victory.
Paul says that a “man of lawlessness” is coming. And he says that the “mystery of lawlessness” is already at work. I take this to mean that a distinct figure of great satanic power (verse 9) is coming, but that his mysterious presence can already be felt in the present time. He is “already” here, and he is “not yet” here. Similarly John says, “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” (1 John 4:3). There is a future antichrist yet to come. But the spirit of antichrist is already in the world. In fact, John goes so far as to say: “You have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). So both Paul and John picture a final time just before the second coming when a person of great demonic power will rise up in rebellion against the true Christ and his people. In the meantime, the satanic characteristics of that figure are always manifesting themselves in the world with greater or lesser dominance. The antichrist is coming and he is here already. “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is . . . the antichrist” (2 John 1:7). – John Piper
Image by Scott Beale on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0