By Robert J. Wieland
Glad Tidings Publishers
The Gospel in Revelation
Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
Step by step God's prophet is revealing Christ to us. Through we may not see His beautiful form with our eyes, we can trace His footsteps in the affairs of history, including our own current history. This chapter presents truth that is intensity interesting and vitally important. Since "no prophecy of Scriptures is of any private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:12), we know that the Bible itself will interpret the various symbols here brought to view. Let us permit the Bible to make itself plain to us.
In the Bible prophecy the sea means "peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues" (Revelation 17:15). A beast likewise, is a symbol of a nation, or a kingdom (see Daniel 7"17, 23). And as a beast's head is what governs him, so the seven heads of this beast would mean its different forms of government, seven being the number of completeness. The ten horns are explained clearly by Daniel himself: they are the ten nations that would arise out of fourth great world empire, Rome (Daniel 7:24).
But this kingdom in Revelation 13 cannot be an ordinary political nation, because John saw written upon his heads " a blasphemous name." The dictionary defines blasphemy as "indignity offered to God in words, writing, or sign; also, act of claiming attributes or prerogatives of deity." Blasphemy has to do with religion, not politics. Therefore the " beast" is a religious power, that is, a church which has grown out of a kingdom.
As to which religious power or church it is, the following verses will make it clear. The divine Author of Revelation will not leave us uniformed:
Now the beast, which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
A little key can open a big lock, because it is made to fit. The books of Daniel and the Revelation fit together as a lock and key, each one interpreting the other.
For example, Daniel describes four great beasts he saw in version---a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a strange one more like a dragon than anything else. The lion was a symbol of Babylon, rich and majestic; the bear was Medo-Persia, cruel and blood-thirsty; the leopard was Greece, clever and swift---Daniel identifies these three by name (Daniel 2:38; 8:20, 21); and the fourth beast, all-powerful, was a symbol of the empire which followed Grecia, the pagan Roman Empire.
The "beast" we see in this chapter combines the characteristics of the four preceding world empires. He receives his "power, his throne, and great authority" from the "dragon," a symbol of the Roman Empire, while back of pagan Rome stood "the devil, and Satan."
But a new thing happened to the Roman Empire which had never before happened in history: midstream in its history it changed its official religion, and its character changed from a political to a religious power. As the emperors became weaker, they moved their capital from Rome to Constantinople.
This left an empty place which the Bishop of Rome was quick to fill. Soon he began to Lord it over the other bishops, and to take to himself the prestige which the former emperors of Rome had exclusively enjoyed. This is how the "dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority." One writer says, "Out of the ruins of political Rome, arose the great moral Empire in the 'Giant form' of the Roman Church." 27
The identification of papal Rome as the "beast" in this chapter becomes more certain as we read further the words of the prophet John:
Revelation 13: 3-7
I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. And it was granted to him to make was with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Again the prophet Daniel will help us to unlock the mystery of this prophecy. In Daniel 7 he describes the "little horn" power identically with this "beast." Note the similarities between Daniel's "little horn" and John's " beast":
- The "little horn" blasphemes God. "He shall speak pompous words against the most High" (Daniel 7:25).
- The "little horn" also makes "war with the saints" (Daniel 7:21).
- Power was given to the "little horn" to continue for three years and a half (Daniel 7:25), or a total of 42 months (3 1/2 x 12 = 42). This same period of time is referred to in Revelation 12:6 as 1260 days, each day in prophecy representing a year, as we have seen previously. (Each day stands for a year, see Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6, "I have laid on you a day for each year").
Now let us inquire if papacy fulfills those points laid down in the Bible:
- Does the papacy blaspheme God, or assume the titles and authority of God? When Jesus forgave people their sins, the Jews accused Him of blasphemy, saying, "Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" Luke 5:21. A Roman Catholic writer says, "The priest holds the place of the Saviour Himself, who, by saying, 'Ego te absolvo' [Latin, I absolve thee], he absolves from sin...To pardon a single sin requires all the omnipotence of God...But what only God can do by His omnipotence, the priest can also do by saying, 'Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis.'" 28
The same writer says further: "But our wonder should be far greater when we find in obedience to the words of His priests---HOC EST CORPUS MEUM (Latin, This is my body)---God Himself descends on the altar, that He comes wherever they call Him...They move Him as they please, from one place to another; they may if they wish, shut Him up in the tabernacle, or expose Him on the altar, or carry Him outside the church; they may, if they choose, eat His flesh, and give Him for the food of others...The priest may, in a certain manner, be called the creator of his Creator." 29
A Roman Catholic encyclopedia says: "The pope is of so great dignity and so exalted that he is not a mere man, but as it were God, and the Vicar of God...The pope is as it were God on earth." 30
As late as 1894 Pope Leo XIII said: "We hold on this earth the place of God Almighty."
- Did the papacy "make war with the saints...to overcome them"? During the time when the papacy was supreme in Europe, historians tell us that millions of people were put to death because they would not acknowledge the papacy as God's true church on earth. Pope Martin V (A.D. 1417-1431) said to the king of Poland regarding the Christian followers of John Huss: "Make it a duty to exterminate the Hussites." Remember that these impious persons dare to proclaim the principles of liberty. "They hold that Christ came on earth to abolish slavery; they call the people to liberty...Burn, massacre, make deserts everywhere, for nothing could be more agreeable to God, or more useful to the cause of kings, than the extermination of the Hussites."31
- How long did the papacy continue in supreme power in Europe? The Roman Emperor Justinian made a decree that the bishop of Rome, the pope, should be the head of all the churches. This decree went into effect in the year AD 538 when the Ostrogoths were driven from Rome. In that year began the temporal power of the papacy, which continued unabated through the struggles of 1260 years, until the fateful year AD 1798 when the French general, Berthier, entered Rome, proclaimed a republic, and took the pope prisoner. Many people thought the papacy was dead.
But not so! We shall see in a few moments how this "deadly wound" is being "healed" in our time. During the years of its supremacy, "all the world marveled" after the papacy. The great mass of mankind trembled before its haughty arrogance. Life in Europe in the Dark Ages revolved around the Roman Catholic Church. Superstition and fear held the people captive until a measure of relief came in the great Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century.
And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
As we saw in Chapter 11, the French had come to believe that the Roman Catholic Church was their enemy. Napoleon's army marched into Italy, determined to put an end to the papacy. Berthier took the pope a prisoner in 1798. Thus the papacy which had led others into captivity was itself led into captivity.
But the world had largely forgotten the bitter lessons taught in the Dark Ages. It has forgotten that the noontide of the papacy was the world's midnight. Today the papacy is making a remarkable comeback in the world power. Through all the new nations of the Third World and in the Western nations, her tremendous rising power is plain to be seen. In many countries she controls education. She is building lofty and massive cathedrals, opening her arms to welcome millions of converts to her faith.
And other churches outside the Roman fold are looking to her for leadership. The Rt. Rev. John Moorman, Anglican leader, said that if there is to be a final unity among the churches, "there will have to be a central head of the church, and that head will clearly have to be the bishop of Rome." With the threat of world destruction if a nuclear war breaks out, men everywhere sense the need for unity and a renewal of spiritual life. They look upon the Roman Church as the only possible leader. Although the Roman Church once was wounded, the wound is being healed today.
Pope John Paul II's great popularity was seen in his unprecedented visits to America, visits "impossible" two or three decades earlier. A commission of Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians recommend the union of the two churches, to heal their 450 year separation. This plan would unite 760 million Roman Catholics and 65 million Anglicans, including 3 million American Episcopalians. Even Baptist Dr. Billy Graham has said that he sees the pope of Rome as the one who should head up a union of all the churches.
The time is very near when "all who dwell on the earth will worship him," except those whose names are "written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." But we see the great masses turning toward Rome, including Protestant churches which separated from her during and after the Reformation, we must not imagine that everyone is following in that direction. God has a people who will remain loyal to His Word. According to Revelation eventually there will be only two classes on earth: those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life, and those who yield to "the beast" of chapter 13.
In recognizing the application of these prophecies, we honor the many self-sacrificing and sincere adherents of the Roman Catholic Church. It is neither fault-finding nor bigotry to recognize the plain truth of God's word in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. The prophecies identify the papacy as a system. It is the outworking in history of a principle that operates in every human heart---the natural desire for exaltation and power over our fellows.
Many non-Catholics are equally as prone to compromising with the world as were the early Catholic fathers. Eusebius said: "In order to render Christianity more attractive to the pagan Gentiles, the priests adopted the exterior vestments and ornaments used in the pagan cult." This policy of compromise and prostitution of truth has also produces the impotent confusion pervading modern Protestantism.
A Catholic writer said recently: "It has often been charges---usually by the narrower sort of Protestant controversialist---that Catholicism is overlaid with many pagan incrustations. Catholicism, it must be added, is ready to accept the accusation---and even to make it her boast...It regards the process as willingness to absorb the true, the good and the beautiful, wherever they may be found, and to indulge all harmless human propensities. The great god Pan is not really dead; he is baptized." (Theodore Maynard, The Story of American Catholicism, pp. 37, 38; imprimatur, [then] Archbishop Francis J. Spellman)
In considering these facts of history, this book assumes no holier-than-thou attitude. We all need the grace of Christ to overcome this natural proclivity in all our hearts. History is our story, but for the grace of God. And God's purpose of grace is to let us see into our own hearts through the enlightenment of history.
"He who has an ear, let him hear," warns the prophet John. Now is the time to yield ourselves fully to the Lamb who was slain for us. The crisis that is fast developing will test to the utmost the patience and faith of the saints, but God will have a people who stand loyal to His truth in the face of the opposition of the world.
Revelation 13: 11-14:
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
We have already seen how the "sea" represents large populations of people. The "earth" must therefore be the opposite--an uninhabited part of the world out of which some remarkable new nation was to "come up" about the time that the papacy was being led into captivity at the time of its "deadly wound" in AD 1798.
What great nation was rising to prominence and power about the time when the 1260 years of papal supremacy ended in 1798? There was only one prominent nation arising at that time in a largely uninhabited part of the world, and that was the United States of America, which declared its independence in 1776 and which was experiencing its early beginnings by 1798. This nation arose in the New World, a vast continent of largely uninhabited land. The rise of this great republic from colonial beginnings is one of the most phenomenal in the history of nations. It has "two horns like a lamb," suggesting the youthful character of the young America, and its twin principles of civil and religious liberty which helped so much to develop the nation into a prosperous world power.
Unlike the horns on the other beasts or kingdoms, these two horns have no crowns upon them. The founders of America determined to learn a lesson from Europe's past history, by creating a new nation without a king.
But what a pity that its character changes from that of a "lamb" to a "dragon" who exercises all the power of the first "beast." Here we see that America will yet become a persecuting power, and will reach out to grasp the hand of the papacy. So close will be the union between the two that he will cause "the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed."
The healing of the papacy's deadly wound has been a gradual one; but the most significant step was taken on February 11, 1929, when Premier Mussolini restored to the papacy its temporal power, and the pope again became a king. An official witnessing the signing of the agreement between Mussolini and the papacy said, "We are now witnessing the signing of this document. As the ink flows from these pens it is healing the wound of fifty-nine years."
Meanwhile, the American nation continues to grow in power. The spirit of all the peoples of the world somehow comes to the surface there. Not yet has the nation taken the step that the Book of Revelation says it will take. Not yet has it enforced "worship" of the "beast." But we may know that the time is near.
The "image" to the beast" is a copy of the system that made the papacy supreme in the Dark Ages. That system was a union of Church and civil government, so that the church had power to enforce its dogmas through the arms of the magistrates and police.
Since the time of the "deadly wound" of the papacy, the nations of the world have generally broken away from any form of domination by the church. Men everywhere have believed that civil government should be free from religious control. They have awakened to realize the truth of Jesus' command that church and state should be separate: "Render to Caesar [the government] the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). The American Constitution guarantees the complete separation of church and state, enabling the people to obey this command of Jesus.
But the Book Of Revelation says that the time is coming when American will repudiate the principles which have brought her success, and that she will induce other nations to follow her example. Then will come a revival of the oppression and persecution that was so common during the Dark Ages.
Does this seem unlikely in this modern age of "freedom" and light? Humanity's boasted progress is only skin-deep if underneath human nature is still evil. As wars, bloodshed, riots, drug abuse, crime and natural disasters increase, the world's rulers will naturally be at their wits' end to know what to do. Very easily they can turn in crisis to the Roman Church for moral and spiritual leadership. The fulfillment of these closing verses of this chapter is only a step away from us.
Revelation 13: 15-17:
He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
The "mark of the beast" is not a physical mark made by a hot brand, or a daub of paint, nor is it a peculiar type of dress. It is a religious mark, a sign of certain attitude of heart. What could this mark be which is so certain to bring such terrible disaster on its receivers?
In chapter seven we have noted that the seal of God is the holy Sabbath of the Lord. The keeping of the seventh day Sabbath distinguishes those designated by John as "saints." The "mark of the beast" is the counterfeit of God's true mark, subtly designed to deceive as many people as possible. Many millions of people are in grave danger of receiving the mark of the beast while they presume that they are safe in following the majority in religious practice.
Daniel 7:25 reveals how the papacy has attempted to change God's law by the substitution of another day of rest for the day chosen by God. It would not be fair to accuse the papacy of this crime unless she herself were willing to admit its truth. Catholic authorities openly admit that they alone are responsible for the change of God's holy Sabbath. Here are a few examples:
Question: Have you any other way of proving that the [Roman] church has power to institute festivals of precept?
Answer: Had she not such power, she would not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her--she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority. 32
Says Leo J. Trese, an apologist for the Roman church in The Faith Explained (Notre Dame: Fides Publishers, 1971), p. 243: Nothing is said in the Bible about a change of the Lord's day from Saturday to Sunday. We know of the change only from the tradition of the [Catholic] Church--a fact handed down to us from earliest times by the living voice of the [Catholic] Church. That is why we find so illogical the attitude of many non-Catholics, who say that they will believe nothing unless they can find it in the Bible and yet will continue to keep Sunday as the Lord's day on the say-so of the Catholic Church.
The mark of the beast has not yet been enforced. Not yet has the world been brought to its final decision. We must take our stand on one side or the other--either to stand wholly on the side of Christ in obedience to His commandments, receiving His holy seal; or on the side of rebellion against the truth of God's Word.
Some who have heard and who know the truth may yield to the threat of poverty when they are forbidden to buy or sell unless they have the mark of the beast. Although they know better, they may choose to bow to apostasy. Such will receive the mark of the beast in their hands.
There are others who sincerely believe a lie, and presume that the majority must be right in spite of the clear declarations of Holy Scripture. Such may yet receive the mark in their heads.
Miracles will be performed in order to convince people that they must go against their conscience in accepting the "mark of the beast." "He performs great signs so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do" (Revelation 13:13, 14).
With many uniformed people, miracles are a final and convincing test of God's favor. They have never realized that Satan and his angels have power to work miracles, just as the heathen magicians in Egypt in Moses' day counterfeited the genuine miracles which Moses performed by God's power (see Exodus 7:10-12). They are sincerely not aware that the Bible says that Satan will work miracles: "No marvel; for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2Corinthians 11:14).
Miracles are not a test that God has sent one with a message. The test is whether or not the message teaches the full truth of God. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" Isaiah 8:20.
Genuine miracles wrought by God are performed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Satan has been studying for thousands of years how he may prepare to deceive the world by a false spirit that will pretend to be the Holy Spirit, but which will lead away from the true Christ and His word. Already the teachings of Spiritualism have penetrated into many of the popular churches, and thousands are receiving a strange spirit which they suppose is the Holy Spirit, but which is really a wonder-working spirit sent from the enemy. Unless we are rooted and grounded in the truths of God's Word, we shall be swept away by the overwhelming delusions of these last days.
The Lord has added in this chapter more truth that confirms our faith. It is as if He knows that this truth revealed in this chapter is a great surprise to many people. Just in case there may be some lingering doubt whether they have truly found the beast and his mark, He will give the number of the beast so that all can be as sure who he is, as though he had a passport or tax number. Let us note the last verse:
Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
The Romans of John's day spoke and wrote Latin, which the papacy still uses today. This language used the same Roman characters which we use in writing, but it employed the same characters for numbers (I is 1, II is 2, V is 5, L is 50, C is 100, et cetera). Adding up all the numeral letters in one's name or title in Roman times equaled his "number," a common practice among Latin-speaking people. The Roman Catholic Bible (Douay version) has a note on this verse: "Six hundred sixty-six. The numerical letters of his name shall make up this number."
What is the official title or name that the papacy claims as his by right? For centuries the title of the Pope of Rome has been understood to be Vicarius Filii Dei, which means "Vicar of the Son of God." In view of the fact that the Son of God Himself declared the Holy Spirit to be His Vicar on earth (John 14: 16-18), this title appears rather presumptuous. These Latin words are found in a Latin document which for hundreds of years the papacy claimed was written by the Emperor Constantine, granting the papacy temporal authority in Rome, and supreme spiritual authority over all the churches. Even after the document was proved to be a forgery, the papacy still maintained that God had given to the popes the position and title of "Vicar of the Son of God," Christ's personal representative here on earth.
Cardinal Henry Edward Manning said of this ancient document and title:
The manner of conceiving and of speaking, in those simple ages, so represented the providential fact of the donation of God. God gave the Vicar of His Son [the Pope] the possession of the city in which thirty of his predecessors had sealed their testimony with their blood. The donation of Constantine consisted in the simple providential fact...an impulse from God Himself. 33
Thus modern cardinal upholds this ancient Latin document and title as an expression of God's will and appointment. The papacy clearly claims to be the Vicar of the Son of God, "Vicarius Filii Dei," in her own language. Note the "number of his name":
V---5As the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" Christ is still suffering today, and He will continue to suffer just so long as there is suffering in this world.
U---5 (U is the same as V)
No one who appreciates the sacrifice of Jesus can be willing to enjoy the pleasures of this world if it involves disloyalty to Him.
Who would dare to change God's law? Strange to say, man has tried to do it! Notice carefully the changes that have been made without God's permission.
The Law of God(Exodus 20:3-7, KJV)
AS GIVEN BY THE LORD
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven, above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the inquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservent, nor thy maidservent, nor thy cattle, nor any stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservent, nor his maidservent, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
As Changed By Man(Peter Giermann, The Covert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, 1946 Ed., pages 37, 38.)
I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,
Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
Honour thy father and thy mother.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods.
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27 Alexander Clarence Flick, The Rise of the Medieaeval Church, page 150 (New York: Burt Franklin, 1959).
28 Alphonsus de Liguori, Dignity and Duties of the Priest, pages 34-36 (Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1927).
29 Ibid., pages 26, 27, 32.
30 Lucius Ferraris, Prompta Bibliotheca, Article "Papa," Volume VI, pages 36-29 (Venice: Gaspar Storti, 1772).
31 L. M. de Cormenin, The Public and Private History of the Popes of Rome,Volume II, pages 116, 117.
32 Stephen Keenan, A Doctrinal Catechism, page 174 (New York: Edward Dunigan & Brother, 1848).
33 The Cross and the Flag, Our Church and Country, pages 24, 25.
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Easy to understand study on Revelation 13 by Robert J. Wieland. When All the World Will Marvel at the "Beast". The Gospel in Revelation. Unlocking the last book of the Bible. A study of Revelation 13.
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