This is a key chapter of Revelation. It is the one that probably scares people the most and rightly so. It speaks of beasts, heads, horns, marks. As we go through it we will let the Bible interpret itself, we will look at historical fact and we will look at things that are definitely in place today that will soon be the fulfillment of this chapter. The key to identification of the symbolism is to start with the Bible then to look for the fulfillment of prophecy, not to look at organizations and events and fit the Bible to them.
The chapter discloses an empire system of government, i.e. a triune government, that combines and totally controls the political, economic and religious systems of the world. The government or person who controls these three systems controls the society thus controls man who is also a triune being: 1) spirit - his religious beliefs: who or what he worships; 2) soul - his intellectual and emotional capacities: determines laws, education; 3) body - economics: where he lives, whether or not he eats, health care. Such a system will be in place during the millennium under the Lordship of Jesus. Because Jesus is God he can and will administer such a system efficiently, beneficially and effectively, but man is not God thus does not have the the attributes of God (love, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence) therefore he cannot administer such a system successfully.
We see illustrations of man's inefficiency in these areas in America today, for example, feeding the poor. The city that I live in does not know who is hungry on my block, therefore the state that I live in (which dispenses AFDC) and the federal government (which dispenses food stamps, etc.) cannot possibly have such information. Because of abuses to and inefficiency in the system, taxes must be increased. Americans today are taxed at about 40% of our income and the money is used to continue and expand the already inefficient system. Socialism is government ownership and control of everything, and America is fast moving toward socialism, which is also a totalitarian system. The person who holds the purse strings determines who gets what. When taken to the extreme, as has happened in recent history in Russia and China, such a society will consist of two groups: masters and slaves. This is the society seen in Rev. 13:16. Slaves have no right to self-determination, in fact, no rights at all: they either do as they are told or they are sold or killed. The antichrist government will be taken to the extreme and it will be National Socialism, state ownership and control in the hands of the few.
Even though antichrist will claim to be God, he isn't. His government will, therefore, be inefficient and unsuccessful, but even if this fact is eventually recognized, it will be too late for man to do anything about it because the boot will have come down worldwide. Hitler eventually came to see himself not as the savior but as the destroyer. He could not save Germany, and ordered the destruction of the German nation. The antichrist will eventually come to the same point, and that is Armageddon. Jesus said except those days be shortened there would no flesh be saved. At that point Jesus will intervene.
Rev. 13 presents counterfeits to the genuine things of God. People do not make counterfeit $3.00 bills, they make fake copies of something genuine. We will identify the Satanic, unholy, trinity which will be a counterfeit of and must answer to the persons and works of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We will see the image of the beast and we will see a counterfeit John the Baptist.
Rev. 13 reveals a sequence of six steps that will lead a person who follows them directly to hell:
(vs. 3) they wondered after the beast
(vs. 4) they worshiped the dragon
(vs. 4) they worshiped the beast
(vs. 8) they worshiped the man
(vs. 15) they worshiped the image
(vs. 16) they received the mark
These six steps encompass spirit, soul and body. The first step, wondering after the beast occurs in the intellectual, or soulish, realm. To wonder means to marvel: this implies to look at, to consider. Those who use their God-given mental capacity to consider and make a determination regarding this beast will be able to individually stop the sequence at that point, and that decision will be the beginning of their troubles. For many it will lead to death. Dave Hunt says cults require their members to check their minds at the door - Christianity does not. God gave each person a fine, working mind: he expects us to use them.
It is my opinion that the events that we will see in this chapter are about to come to pass. They cannot be stopped, not because God desires these things to happen (God is not willing that ANY should perish but that ALL should come to repentance), but because God has known the ending since the beginning and has told us of what is to come.
We are living in the days when Rev. 13 is being set up - this is it. For the pre-rapture believers, these are probably the most exciting times to be alive ever: Jesus is coming - we are the generation that will not see death. We are the generation that will be resurrected without having died, then caught up to meet the Lord in the air. For post-rapture believers, it is a whole different thing: they will actually experience the events depicted in this chapter. I do not look at these things from the perspective of how to stop them, but rather from the perspective of how should I react in them. Daniel lived in Babylon and the early church lived under the Roman Empire. They did not try to overthrow the governments they lived under, instead they maintained their faith and their loyalty to God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
The question becomes: what does God want me to do? how does he want me to react? I believe that we should be living for God and witnessing to others on an individual, moment-by-moment basis. In the final analysis, God could have created each of us at any time. We are here now. Therefore God has a purpose for each one of us and he has made us able to perform that purpose. I exhort you to find your calling and perform it. No one knows how long his or her life on earth will continue, but God knows. For the post-rapture believer, it is imperative that you study the Word of God, not just the prophetic sections but in its entirety, so you will not be deceived by what is coming on the earth. In knowing Jesus and his Word, you will be able to recognize the counterfeit.