Deception and Triumph – Revelation 13–14

Read the Passage: Revelation 13-14

Reminder: The book of Revelation is structured around seven parallel sections, each describing the time between Jesus’ first and second comings. These sections can be delineated into chapters 1–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–16, 17–19, and 20–22.

Deception of the Beast (13:1–18)

In Rev. 13:1–10 we are introduced to “a beast rising up out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1). This beast is the same as “the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit” of Rev. 11:7. The sea represents the secular nations of the earth and their governments (cf. Isa. 17:12). Thus, the beast that arises out of the sea depicts the persecuting power of Satan seen in the nations and governments of the world. The beast’s heads, horns, and crowns represent the power of secular nations throughout history. The beast’s description in Rev. 13:1–2 as being a leopard, bear, and lion are a combination of the beasts Daniel sees and describes in Dan. 7:1–8. This beast of Rev. 13:1 is permitted to reign for 42 months (cf. Rev. 13:5), which is 1,260 days—or time, times, and half a time. As was discussed in our earlier study, this represents a fixed period of time, between Jesus’ first and second comings, that will end suddenly.

Beginning in Rev. 13:11, John describes a second beast; however, this beast is seen “coming up out of the earth” (Rev. 13:11). It seems that whereas the first beast depicts Satan’s power via worldly governments, the second beast represents Satan’s power via worldly philosophies and especially false religions (cf. Jas. 3:15). This second beast is the false prophet of Rev. 19:20. This beast looks like an innocent lamb, but is actually the dragon in disguise (cf. Matt. 7:15). This beast deceives many, but only because he is permitted to do so (cf. Rev. 13:14–15). Those who follow the beast are affected in their minds (i.e., their foreheads) and in their actions (i.e., their right hands). This depicts anti-Christian ideas in the thoughts, words, and acts of those of this world. Observe that the “mark of the beast” is given as 666, for man was created on the 6th day; thus, 6 is the number of man.

Triumph of the Church (14:1–5)

In direct contrast to the vision of the two beasts and those who follow them, in Rev. 14:1 John sees a new vision of a Lamb with 144,000 followers. This Lamb is clearly the slain Lamb of Rev. 5:6, who opened the seven seals of the heavenly scroll. This, of course, is Jesus Christ. Similarly, the 144,000 followers are the same as those who were introduced earlier at Rev. 7:1–8. 144,000 should not be understood as a literal number; rather, it represents 12 x 12 x 1,000—twelve being the number of tribes of Israel and the number of Jesus’ disciples, and one-thousand being a very larger number. The 144,000, then, depicts all the followers of God throughout the ages. John notes that these followers of God are sealed by Jesus (not just marked), are redeemed, are pure, and are without deceit and fault. They are singing a “new song” (Rev. 14:3), the lyrics of which are recorded earlier at Rev. 5:9–10.

Judgment of the Lord (14:6–20)

In concluding his fourth narrative of history, John describes God’s judgment upon Satan and his followers. This section begins in Rev. 14:6–13 with a vision of three angels who deliver a message of judgment to the earth. Note that the events of Rev. 14:1–5 likely chronologically follow those revealed in Rev. 14:6–20. Surprisingly, we learn that the first angel has “the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 14:6). While the gospel is hope and life to those who believe, to those who reject Christ, the gospel is a message of judgment and death (cf. 2 Cor. 2:14–17). The second angel pronounces the fall of Babylon, which represents the seduction of the world, including its systems, ideologies, and false teachings. Finally, the third angel warns about the eternal punishment of the followers of Satan, which ought to encourage believers to persevere in the truth.

In Rev. 13:14–20 John mentions the sight of two additional angels, as well as giving further information about God’s judgment of unbelievers. The judgment detailed here involves the illustration of harvesting. First, John sees Jesus Christ sitting on a cloud with a sharp sickle. An angel then delivers a message from the Father to the Son instructing Him to begin the harvest of judgment. Note Jesus’ own description of this event at Matt. 3:7–12. Second, John sees a final angel who is instructed to reap the harvest of the earth. The illustration here is one of a grape harvest, as “the vine of the earth” (Rev. 14:19) is harvested and the grapes are thrown into the wine press of God’s wrath to be trampled underfoot. This judgment is so great and thorough that John observes the grape juice, or the blood as it were, reaches a depth up to the horses’ bridles. The judgment of God is terrible, final, and thorough.

Application Questions:

  1. In the midst of the moral decay of the culture, and your personal trials and sufferings, are you tempted to doubt God’s sovereign control over all things?
  2. Do you have an ear to hear the message John records here (cf. Rev. 13:9)? How is this message, which includes persecution of believers, meant to encourage us?
  3. Who gives the first beast authority for forty-two months, grants him power to persecute the saints, and allows the second beast to perform miracles?
  4. Are you more prone to glorify God for what He does for you or for who He is? Is it ever appropriate to rejoice over the defeat of the enemies of God?
  5. How can we best minister to people who get paralyzed by fear about end-times’ events, and get consumed by attempts to predict the time of Jesus’ return?