This sermon is number 15 in a series of 20
The Book Of The Revelation - Part 15
"The Seven Key Characters"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2008 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I want you to turn with me now please to Revelation chapter 12, we've a lot to get through tonight as usual, and I want to make sure we get to our concluding point. It's going to necessitate you to move swiftly from verse to verse as we refer to them tonight. We're looking at chapters 12 and 13 - the newspaper ad did say 14, but we'll not have time to look at that this evening. We're looking in chapters 12 and 13 at 'The Seven Key Characters' of the book of the Revelation. Now they are comprised in chapters 12 and 13, although we find them right throughout the rest of the book. But if we were to look at chapter 12 first of all, we will quickly see - we're not going to do an initial reading, we will just follow verse by verse as we study it tonight - we will see that what we have in chapter 12 is essentially a summary of the history of God's ancient chosen people Israel. But not only do we have a history of Israel, we have a history that is posed in such a way that it becomes a prophecy concerning their future, things that are still to happen to that nation.
So chapter 12 is a summary of Israel's history, and prophecy of her future. Really when we look at it, verses 1 and 2 in particular, we see that that is also a review of the great conflict of the ages, from the beginning of time, between God and the forces of darkness, Satan and his minions. So we're looking tonight, if you have your chart with you, don't worry if you don't, you can get one on the way out if you've lost it, we have covered the seven seals in chapters 6 to 8, the seven trumpets in chapters 8 to 11, and now a kind of parenthesis - chapters 12 through to 13 - and we'll take up next week, God willing, the seven bowl judgements, chapters 15 to 16. But tonight we're looking at the seven key figures - and as I said, not only do we have a history and a prophecy of the Jewish people, but we have in essence the whole story of God and man, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. That's why, 28 times in the book, we have the Lamb mentioned; and 36 times we have the beast mentioned, who is the embodiment of evil and satanic darkness. So there is a story being told here, not just in chapter 12, but throughout the whole book, to show us the history of Satan's enmity towards God - but not just his enmity toward God, his enmity toward the nation of Israel and all of mankind throughout history.
Indeed, not only do we see that in a historical sense, but as I've already intimated it is posed for us here in chapter 12 also in prophetic aspect to show that God is going to bring to consummation in the end of days this great tension between God and Satan. So what we are really saying is that the past history that we're given here in chapter 12 is related to the future. As we shall see tonight, it also has a great application for the present, and our title for the series of course has inferred that - that what we see here in the future that's going to take place from the book of Revelation, gives us strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. It's not all about something that's going to happen that has no relevance to us today. Remember that this was a letter that is being written to persecuted Christians in Asia Minor in John the apostle's day.
So the past, as we will see it here in chapter 12, has a relation to the present and to the future in God's plan. Now in chapters 12 and 13 we're going to encounter seven key figures or key characters in the book. Here they are - this is not the order we will consider them in, but this is the sum total: first of all we encounter in verses 1 to 6 a woman, and we will see that we identify this woman as the nation of Israel. In chapter 12 verses 3 to 17 there is also a great red dragon, it's also called a serpent, and he is Satan. The third key figure is the male child, the man child, Jesus Christ, in chapter 12 verses 2 to 5. The fourth character is Michael the Archangel - by the way, the only Angel that is called an Archangel in the word of God - verses 7 through to 9 in chapter 12. Then at the end of chapter 12 we find the fifth group, key figure, a remnant of Israel - those who have been saved, born again by the Spirit, and recognized the Lord Jesus as their Messiah - chapter 12 verses 14 to 17. Then we move into chapter 13 and we see two further characters, two beasts. The first beast, verses 1 to 10 of chapter 13, we identify as being the antichrist - and we will see the reason for that later on. Then the seventh character, the second beast, is his sidekick, the false prophet - verses 11 through to 18 of chapter 13.
Now chapter 12 shows us that John's vision opens with two wonders in heaven. The first wonder he sees is a woman giving birth to a son, and the second wonder he sees is a great red dragon. So let us consider the first wonder tonight, this first key figure, the woman of verses 1, 2, and we'll also read verse 5. Look at verse 1: 'There appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered'. Verse 5 please: 'And she brought forth a man child', a male child, 'who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne'.
Now let me just say, before we start to interpret who this woman is, that the identity of this woman bearing this child is crucial to the whole interpretation of the rest of the book of the Revelation. Now some believe that this woman signifies the church, as setting forth Christ to the world. Others believe that this woman signifies Israel, and Israel has brought salvation to the nations through her Messiah - though she did not recognize Him, nevertheless salvation is of the Jews, giving us the Christ. I believe we'll see in a moment or two that it's very clear that the man child is definitely Christ, but we must also conclude that it was through Israel, and not the church, that the man child Jesus came into the world - for the church was not in existence, was not born until Acts chapter 2. Indeed, we believe the New Testament bears this out - of course, Paul, writing about the Gospel in Romans 1 and verse 3 says that our Lord Jesus 'was made of the seed of David according to the flesh', He was a Jew, born from the nation of Israel. Again in Romans 9:4-5, speaking of the Israelites, Paul's brethren according to the flesh, he speaks of them, Israelites 'of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen'.
So Christ was born to the Jews, and I believe that indeed the symbology that is here very clearly shows that this woman with the twelve stars around her head is indeed Israel. Let me show you why, if you turn back with me to Genesis 37, the book of Genesis please, chapter 37 - you remember that Joseph had a number of dreams. One of the dreams he had in verse 9 of Genesis 37, we read: 'And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me'. So here we have the same key figures: the sun and the moon; Jacob, Israel and his wife; and 11 stars, that was Joseph's brethren. Verse 10: 'And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?'. Of course Jacob, Israel's, children were the twelve tribes, the promised nation would come from them. So the parallels are obvious, are they not, with chapter 12 of Revelation and verse 1? This woman is clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of 12 stars signifying the 12 tribes. Her identification with Israel is obvious.
Now it's important, as I said, to identify this woman, because it will determine the rest of our interpretation of the book - and we must not confuse symbols in the book of the Revelation, particularly this symbol of the woman. You see, a woman in Scripture can be a symbol of the church, and we will see later on in the study of this book in chapter 19 a bride, a pure, chaste bride is presented there as a figure of the church. We will see also that in Revelation 17 there is a harlot, an immoral, illicit woman, who is presented as a figure of the apostate world religious system of the day during the tribulation period. Both of these figures, though they are women, are very different from a woman travailing in birth. When we look in the Old Testament we find that Israel is said to be the wife of Jehovah, not the bride of the Lamb, and certainly not a harlot. She was the wife of Jehovah, and on several occasions she is presented as a woman being in travail, birth pangs.
Let me just give you one example, for the sake of time, of this. If you turn with me to Micah's prophecy, you're coming near the end of the Old Testament, Micah's prophecy - I'll give you time to look it up, it's not the easiest to find. Micah's prophecy chapter 5, verses 2 and 3 - we know these verses well, but do we consider the implication of them in the light of Revelation chapter 12? 'But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel'. 'She that travaileth brings forth', and there are many other verses that indicate that Israel, as the wife of Jehovah, would be the one who would travail in birth and bring forth the Messiah.
So those prophetic verses in the Old Testament - Genesis 37 - would indicate to us that Revelation 12 and verse 1 is speaking to us of the nation of Israel. Of course we know from many other scriptures that the nation of Israel is God's prophetic sign to history. In the Old Testament she was to be a light unto the Gentiles, and it's still the case in prophetic Scripture that Israel is a thermometer regarding prophetic truth. Now please listen: if you confuse Israel with the church, you will make a mess of interpreting prophetic Scriptures - and that is what many evangelicals are doing today. Israel is the cornerstone of prophecy, and if you have her rightly placed the whole prophetic superstructure will be erected accurately.
The woman is clearly Israel, but there is a second key figure here, and that is the man child in verses 2 and 5 - Jesus Christ. 'She being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered', verse 5, 'she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne' - chapter 12, the man child, Jesus Christ. Now we read that Satan, this red dragon, attempts to devour this one who could only be Christ, the chosen child of Israel, the Messiah, and verse 5 says 'who would soon rule all the nations with a rod of iron'. So it is Christ who Satan is trying to devour, and we know from the New Testament history of the gospels that Satan tried to kill our Lord Jesus Christ on many occasions. When he failed in that, he now tries to devour the saints of God, the New Testament Christians, and also the Jewish people as a nation. You have to remember that this is a letter, let's always get back to this, this is a letter being written to persecuted Christians in Asia Minor who are being devoured by the Roman Imperial system.
Well, please notice that this Son is born, verse 5 says, and then immediately, according to this record anyway, this Son is caught up to the throne of God. So what we have here concerning Christ is His birth, and then immediately after it His ascension - there is nothing about His life or His death. Now that is very interesting - Warren Weirsbe says that that little colon there in verse 5, in the middle of the verse, represents 33 years of history, it has been missed out! That is very significant, because chapter 12, as we will see this evening, as we read through it gives no indication to us of time gaps existing between some of these events, or indeed that these events are necessarily in chronological order as they are recorded in the chapter. Now that's often characteristic of prophetic Scriptures. Let me give you another example, Daniel 9 - we don't have time to look at it, but Daniel 9 gives that prophetic calendar of 70 prophetic weeks that would give the history, prophetically, of the nation of Israel. In all of those weeks, from the 69th through to the 70th, there is no mention of the church age whatsoever - it's missed out completely. Now why is that? Because it was a prophecy to Israel concerning their history, and yet there's a whole gap of - up till now - 2000 years that is not accounted for. That often happens in prophetic literature in the Bible. It's the same in chapter 12, much of Israel's history, if you like, is telescoped into the verses of this chapter - but the main point is clear: that the plan of God in choosing Israel with Abraham at the very beginning was to bring the Saviour of the world to all the nations through the Jewish race.
So the woman is Israel, and the man child is Jesus Christ. Then thirdly, our third figure is the dragon, and we're looking at verses 3 and 4: 'And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born'. So the first wonder was this woman in heaven bringing forth a child, the second wonder that John sees is this red dragon in verse 3 that is unquestionably Satan, the devil. Verse 9 gives us that clear interpretation: 'The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him'.
Now of course we have seen already in chapter 6 and verse 4 that the second apocalyptic horseman was riding a red horse. Red spoke of death, and he was going to bring death on much of the earth - and this red dragon is showing his colours, truly, because he's going to bring death, and we know that Satan was described by our Lord Jesus in John chapter 8 as being a murderer from the beginning. Satan, as he is depicted here as the great red dragon, has seven heads and ten horns - verse 3. Now we'll see the significance of that when we come to chapter 13 verse 1, because this first beast is described in the same manner - let's skip over that for a moment. Verse 4 says that his tail drew a third part of the stars from heaven. Now some liken that to some of the judgements of the tribulation that we have seen already through the opening of the seven seals and the blowing of the seven trumpets - but most Bible scholars see in this an inference to the fall of Satan, that is right at the very beginning of time when Satan tried to exalt himself to be God and was cast out of heaven, and a third of his angels with him. Therefore they see that also in verse 7, a war in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. Then we see also in verse 9: 'The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him'.
So the dragon is cast out, he takes a third of the angels with him - of course stars are often used as a figure of angels in the word of God - and it does seem reminiscent of Isaiah chapter 14 verses 12 through to 15, if you want to turn to that for a moment you'll see clearly what I mean. Isaiah chapter 14 verses 12 through to 15, listen carefully if you don't want to turn to it: 'How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit'. Now there is no doubt, I think, that John's vision is alluding to that great event before time was for us. Yet we've got to remember that what we have here in chapter 12 is not just a summary of Israel's past, and the past of the human race, but it is history posed as prophecy regarding the future in relation to the past. Now that's vital to understand.
So there is war in heaven, there is a casting out of Satan and a third of his angels, and this passage seems to indicate that there is yet a future aspect to all of those things. What do they mean? Well, there will be again a war in heaven. Satan again will be cast out and a third of his angels with him. There is a future aspect to this. Now before we delve into the future, let's consider the past, the history of this great battle of the ages. Turn right back to Genesis chapter 3, and we see where the conflict between Satan and the woman started. Satan was cast to earth, he deceived Eve and her husband and they fell into sin, but right at that moment of fall into depravity we see a promise from God - chapter 3 and verse 15: 'I will put enmity between thee', speaking to the serpent, 'and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel'. So God has promised a Saviour through the seed of a woman to deliver mankind, and right from that moment on throughout Old Testament history Satan is trying to prevent the birth of the Redeemer through a woman. You can trace it right throughout Old Testament history - there has always been a dragon standing by waiting to destroy the nation of Israel, who are the ancestors of the Messiah child.
Think about it: Pharaoh in Egypt, trying to exterminate all the children of the Hebrews - incidentally in Ezekiel 29 Pharaoh is called a dragon. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Jeremiah 51 speaks of him as a dragon. Satan does such a good job at attempting to exterminate the Jews, in order to prevent this man child Deliverer coming from them, that there is one point in Jewish history in 2 Kings 11 where the royal line is limited to one young boy, King Josiah. Now when the Lord Jesus Christ comes on the scene we know, don't we, from Matthew chapter 2 that Satan used King Herod to try to destroy Him. Right up to Calvary we see that Satan devised that through Judas the Lord would be betrayed and crucified, and as far as he was concerned done away with for ever - all hope of a Deliverer and Redeemer to the Jews and mankind at large. But little did he know that what he thought was his greatest victory and triumph, the cross, was actually his defeat!
That's why we have, in chapter 12 of Revelation verse 11, that even during this tribulation time those Jewish believers will overcome Satan and his emissaries by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony - that's where their victory comes from. You know, whilst we're looking far into the future, maybe not so far, but a little bit into the future: things are very much the same today, because Satan still has access to heaven, we know that from Job. He can accuse God's people, we the church, believers in Christ - now, praise God, he cannot dethrone our Lord Jesus in His exalted state, having ascended to the right hand of the Father, but one thing he can do is persecute Christians. Peter tells us that, if he could, he would devour us as a roaring lion. These believers that John is writing to were experiencing just that, but praise God: he can be overcome!
That's what suffering Christians need to hear today. Do you know that the devil hates us if we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ? Yet, whatever he does to us, we have the victory through the cross! I love what A.W. Tozer said regarding this, he said: 'I'm not afraid of the devil, the devil can handle me that's for sure - he's got judo I never heard of - but he can't handle the One to whom I'm joined. He can't handle the One to whom I'm united, he can't handle the One whose nature dwells in me'. Satan is always the same, his tactics are the same, he is doing today what he will do at this tribulation period on the earth. Verse 9 tells us: 'Then he will deceive the world', that's what he's doing now. Verse 11 says he will accuse the brethren, that's what he's doing now. But our strategy of overcoming him is the same as theirs then. Charles Ryrie sums it up very well when he says: 'The strategy for a believers defence is threefold: one, bank on the merits of Christ's death - they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb; two, be active in witnessing - the word of their testimony' - some people don't have victory over the devil because they never witness for Christ, they're not involved in evangelism. 'Third, be willing to make any sacrifice including death'. Some people are trusting in the cross, the merits of His blood; some people are evangelising - but how many of us are willing to make a sacrifice like we see in verse 11: 'they loved not their lives unto death'. Do you know what the message is? The devil can't do anything with someone who's not afraid of dying.
One day the victory will be realised, verse 10 speaks of it: 'I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night' - that is speaking of a future day when he will be cast to the earth. That will not be it all over, but eventually, very soon after that, he will be cast into hell's fire for ever. What a day that will be - but let's get back to the prophetic context of this history of chapter 12, because though the devil hates us today and would persecute us, he has a special hatred for the Jewish people. It is his power that has been behind all forms of anti-semitism from the days of Pharaoh in Egypt, to the days of Haman, who we read of in the book of Esther, that wished to exterminate the Jewish race, to the days of the Second World War, Adolf Hitler - and even today, the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly demonises the nation of Israel, the state of Israel. He has openly called for the destruction of Israel at every opportunity he has. He has described Israel as a fake regime and, I quote, he said: 'it must be wiped off the map'. He has termed Zionists as 'the most detestable people in all humanity', and called for the extermination of the race. Indeed, he believes that the Holocaust - six million Jews eradicated in World War II - was, I quote, 'a myth'. He believes that the Jews have played upon Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust in a bid to extort sympathy from European governments for the nation of Israel.
As some of you will know, last week I was in Israel, and I had the privilege - although it was a most moving experience - of going to Yad Vashem, which is the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Six million Jews exterminated by Nazism, but one of the most moving experiences being there was to visit the children's memorial, and to realise that there were 1.5 million children under the age of 18 who were murdered during the Holocaust. It's very hard to relay that experience to you of being there, but the doors of that memorial opened to a darkened subterranean room under the ground. As you went through the entrance there were nine photographs of children, five boys and four girls. You walked into a darkened room, and at the centre of that room there was a glass case that contained five candles. Those five candles were reflected by mirrors on the walls, on the ceiling, and on the floor - and what it did was, it produced innumerable dots of light all around that whole building. It was reminiscent of looking into a starlit sky, and it was trying to depict 1.5 million young souls. As you walked through that, in the background was sombre music playing, and there were voices that read out in Hebrew, English and Yiddish the names, the ages, the places of origin of those 1.5 million children that perished in the Holocaust. If memory serves me correctly, my Jewish guide told us that it takes four and a half months to read them all out.
Now, in the mid-tribulation period, where we are now here in chapter 12, there's going to come a wave of anti-semitism such as this world has never seen. Verse 6, 'the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days' - that's 3 1/2 years, the second half of the tribulation period. But the worst Holocaust that the Jewish people has ever known is yet to come. It is estimated that during World War II one Jew in three died, but in the next Holocaust during this tribulation period is estimated that two in every three Jews will die. Now I'm not plucking that figure out of the air - if you turn with me to Zechariah's prophecy, Zechariah please, near the end again of your Old Testament. Chapter 13 verse 7: 'Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein', two parts, 'shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein' - two thirds, but a third shall be left therein, God will protect a remnant during those 3 1/2 years
That brings us to the third figure that we have of the seven. In verses 7 through to 9, read with me: 'There was war in heaven: Michael', the third figure, 'and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him'. Now what is this celestial conflict all about, in a future sense? Well, Michael the Archangel is identified in Scripture with the nation of Israel, Daniel 12 and verse 1 shows us that very clearly. You can turn with me to it if you want, let me read it to you: 'At that time', speaking of the same time, 'shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people', Daniel's people, 'and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book'.
Do you know what 'Michael' means? It means 'Who is like God', and what a challenge that is to the rant of the devil, who said 'I will be like the Most High'. Here stands Michael, who is like God, and this dragon is defeated by Michael and his heavenly host. The dragon and his angels are cast to the earth, and though there is victory in the war at heaven, as the dragon and his angels are cast to the earth he makes a final ditch attempt to destroy the nation of Israel - now why does he do that? For the same reason he has always done it, or attempted to do it, verses 12 and 13: 'Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child'.
Why is he persecuting the Jews in the tribulation? Well, he knows the Lord is going to return, and he knows this much: that when the Lord returns He will come to the Jews, as He did in His first advent, He is prophesied to come in the second advent - just read Zechariah 12, Zechariah 14, and even Revelation 1 and verse 7. Anti-semitism will increase before our Lord Jesus returns to the earth, and you can even see it increasing to a greater extent today.
But the fifth key figure is this remnant of Jews who will not be exterminated, and we find them in verses 14 to 17: 'And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time', 3 1/2 years, 'from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood'. Now what we have here is the remnant of her seed, it's called in verse 17 'the remnant of the woman's seed'. Now apart from the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who God sealed and protected from death, there is a believing remnant of Jews that will survive this troublesome time in the second half of the tribulation period. What's going to happen is: when antichrist breaks his covenant that he made at the beginning of the seven years with the nation of Israel, he will desecrate the Temple, sitting on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and at that moment when he sets himself up to be God many of the Jews at that moment will reject him, and some will even turn to Christ.
In verse 6 we see that there will be a place prepared for them by God. Now, what is this place? Well, no one can know for sure, that is definite - but some Bible scholars believe that it will be a place in the desert of Edom. Some would be even more specific in saying that the ancient city of Petra, which is now found in modern Jordan, some believe that this ancient city in Jordan is the place where this remnant of Jews will be taken to on eagles wings, and it might be the place. Petra was a city that was hewn out of the rock, and it is only accessible through this gorge, you can only get to it on foot. Some believe that Bozrah, which is spoken of in prophetic Scripture, is in fact the same place as Petra. Now if it's not identical to it, it's certainly around the same vicinity. Daniel chapter 11 verse 41 says, speaking of antichrist: 'He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon'. So Edom is going to escape from antichrist at some point in the tribulation. Indeed, in Isaiah 63 and verse 1 we read of our Lord Jesus coming in His second coming, and it says: 'Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save'.
If you had time tonight to turn back to Micah 2 verse 12, you would read there: 'I will surely assemble, O Jacob', that's Israel, 'all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men'. Bozrah, a sheepfold, and from the sky Petra looks like a sheepfold - well, we don't want to suppose, but the fact of the matter is: God knows the exact geographical location of where this remnant of believing Jews will be taken. They will be fed supernaturally, just like the Israelites were 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Then Matthew 24 verses 15 to 21 will take on a special meaning for that remnant of Jews, now please turn to this, Matthew 24 - and in the light of all that we've heard tonight, historically and prophetically, about the nation of Israel, read these verses with that knowledge. Matthew 24 and verse 15: 'When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place', that is antichrist seeking worship as God, '(whoso readeth, let him understand:)'. The Lord says: 'Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be'.
Do you see it all fitting together? The first figure is this woman Israel; the second the manchild Jesus Christ; the third the dragon seeking to devour the Child, that is Satan; the fourth Michael the Archangel, standing up for Israel; the fifth the remnant of saved Israelites, believing after the abomination of desolation; the sixth figure is found in chapter 13 verses 1 to 10 - we'll not read all those verses - it is the first beast. Verse 1 of chapter 13, John says: 'I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads', there it is again, 'and ten horns', reminiscent of the red dragon, 'and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy'. Now this beast came out of the sea, verse 1 says. Now 'sea' often symbolises the Gentile nations; 'the land' often speaks of Israel, the promised land, and 'the sea' often speaks of the Gentile peoples, maybe even the peoples of the Mediterranean. It would seem that this first beast may come from one of those nations, and Satan will bring him forth as his super leader.
This is the antichrist, verse 1 says that he had seven heads and ten horns - like Satan, as we have said, as he was described. Now seven is the number of perfection, but this time it speaks of perfect evil - if there can be such a phrase - and it speaks also of the seven world kingdoms that have existed right throughout human history: the great empire of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and then a revived Roman Empire which will be the end time government of antichrist - and that will be made up of ten horns, ten rulers, perhaps ten nations (Daniel 7, Daniel 8, Revelation 13, and further in the book, speaks of this). Irrespective of the details, this beast is going to embark upon a new career, he's going to be Satan's world dictator. He is marked by the name 'blasphemy' on each of his heads, which indicates the nature of this kingdom.
In verse 2 we're given another depiction of him: 'And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority'. This is reminiscent of what Daniel tells us of the nation of the empire of Greece, depicted as a leopard there in swiftness - how Alexander the Great took over the known world with such rapidity. Here is a bear, which spoke in Daniel of the empire of Medo-Persia, great power - and this new empire will have great power just like it. The lion's mouth speaks of greed, just like Babylon in all of its affluence. But this beast comprises all three of these past beasts: the leopard, the bear, and the lion - in other words, this new empire will be the embodiment of all beastly governments that have ever ruled. Satan's power is enthusing it and infusing it with energy. What all of these past empires had in common was: they were evil, they were anti-God, and this empire's soul will be indwelt by the dragon, that serpent the devil, Satan himself.
Verse 3 shows us that this beast became wounded to death, it was wounded in the head. We know that in the mid-tribulation period, 3 1/2 years into this seven-year period, antichrist will be killed, or at least appear to be killed, and there will be an imitation of the resurrection of Christ - he will be brought to life again! You can imagine what will happen then: he will earn the adulation of the nations, verse 4, 'And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?'. Verses 5 and 6 apparently would indicate that during this period, the second half of the tribulation, antichrist's power will be practically unrestrained. No one will be able to resist him. Verse 8: 'All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world'. Satan's authority on earth will be great, and almost everyone on earth will worship him except those who have trusted in Christ - and that is the very thing that Satan has desired from the beginning of all time! Is it not?
Now please remember, in chapter 6 when we first encountered antichrist, the first horse rider, he began his career as a peacemaker, didn't he? He's bringing in a covenant that we think will effectively settle the Arab-Israeli problem. He'll make a covenant with the Jews to protect them for seven years, and that will allow them the peace and protection to rebuild that Temple on the Temple Mount, and they'll be able to reinstitute their ritual sacrifices and offerings - but in the middle of those seven years, the time we're studying now here in chapters 10 through to 14, antichrist will break that covenant. He'll stop the ceremonies, he'll set himself up as God in the Temple to be worshipped. Many Jews will be exterminated, but some will believe in Christ and the Lord will protect them.
That is the first beast, antichrist, the second - chapter 13 verse 11: 'And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon'. This is another beast, this time this one comes out of the earth. It may be that he is a Jew, he is also referred to in the rest of this book as the false prophet in chapter 16, chapter 19, chapter 20. If you like, he's the alter-ego of the antichrist, he's his lieutenant. Verse 12 tells us that he exercises all power of the first beast before him, so he is the second highest ranking world leader during this second half of the tribulation period. He will effectively force the whole world to worship the antichrist. He's got miraculous power: verse 13, he makes fire come down from heaven; verse 15, he has power to give life unto the image of the beast. Like the Babylonian Emperor, he will set up an image of himself to be worshipped, but he has power to give, it would seem, life, or at least the semblance of life to that image.
In verses 16 to 18 we see that he forces men to take the mark of the beast, which is the number 666. The false prophet will require everyone, all people - to bring an entire world economy together, to bring a world governmental system together, to bring world religious establishment together - he will require people to take this mark on their hand and on their forehead. Whatever it is, and I'm not going to surmise, it will be something very important to identify you as a disciple of antichrist in a future day that is yet to be: 666. Do you know that six is the number of man? It's one less than seven, which is the number of perfection, and teaches us that man - everyone, no difference between any of us - have fallen short of the glory of God. But this is a trinity of sixes, because what we are seeing here is a trinity of evil, a Satanic trinity. If you like, the dragon, this great red dragon that is the devil, Satan - he is the counterfeit Father, who said in the past: 'I will be like the Most High'. This first beast is a counterfeit Christ, the anti-Christ, taking the place of our Lord: death, resurrection. The second beast, the false prophet, is the counterfeit Holy Spirit. You know, don't you, that the Holy Spirit is the one who glorifies Christ, uplifts Him, leads people to trust in Him and worship Him - John 6. But here the false prophet will point people to antichrist, his image, and compel them, force them to worship Satan through the beast, just as we worship God the Father through the Son.
Now I have so much that I could share with you tonight, but time has beaten me. What can we take in application from this study here tonight? Well, surely it's obvious: pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray that dear Jewish souls will come to Christ, even out of their blindness, by the grace of God, before this awful tragic scene takes place. Do we not hear the heart's cry of the apostle Paul: 'I wish that I myself were accursed for my kinsmen, my brethren according to the flesh. My heart's desire and prayer for Israel is that they may be saved'. That's why the gospel is to the Jew first, and to the Greek. But you know, I was thinking today, through all of this that we have looked at this evening in these seven key characters: does it not bring new light to that carol that we very seldom sing, that goes as follows:
'O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel'.
Next week, God willing, we'll look at 'The Seven Bowl Judgements' in chapters 17, 18 and 19.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifteenth recording in his 'The Book Of The Revelation' series, entitled "The Seven Key Characters" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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