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Antichrist - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10


Well, I am excited tonight to continue our study through the amazing final book in the Scripture, the book of Revelation. I invite you to turn with me to Revelation, chapter 13, where we will initiate our study tonight.

In John 10:10, Jesus makes a remarkable statement about Satan. There he says this: Satan comes to kill and to destroy. He comes to kill and to destroy. You see, Satan is the ultimate face of evil. But sadly, evil often has a human face, a very human face. In our world today, some are uniquely evil. We see the reports and see the faces of mass murderers and child abusers. Those who, like the devil, love to kill and destroy. If we look at the broader world, the face of evil looks like terrorists who take innocent lives with impunity. It looks like government leaders who abuse and murder thousands or millions. Men even like Vladimir Putin, who start wars that kill thousands of innocents and their own soldiers, or repressive brutal regimes like Iran, Syria, North Vietnam, North Korea or China. But frankly, as evil as many of today's political rulers are, they pale in comparison to the evilest rulers in human history. I was shocked this week as I did a little research to get my arms around the vastness of the evil of men who have been leaders in the past.

Genghis Khan was proud of having killed somewhere between 40 and 60 million people during the brutal Mongol rule and wars. China's leader in the second half of the 20th century, Chairman Mao, was responsible, they estimate, for the death of 50 to 80 million of his own people. Joseph Stalin was responsible for the death of more than 50 million Russian lives. Adolf Hitler initiated World War II, which brought 40 to 50 million deaths, including 6 million Jews that he murdered in the Holocaust.

Those are unthinkable numbers. Think about this, and Sheila and I were talking about it this week, to just get your arms around the magnitude. All of those men I mentioned, close to 50 million people each, they were responsible for their deaths. Imagine killing ten times the number of people who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. That's what these men did.

But even those men are not as bad as a ruler still to come. One day, a world ruler will arise who will truly be the face of evil. He will be the embodiment of evil in a way that even the worst of the past has not. He will be completely controlled by Satan. He will dominate world politics and will become the object of worship for the whole world. He will be so entirely evil that Paul refers to him as "the man of sin" or "the man of lawlessness."

I told Sheila on Friday to pray for me because I was spending the day with the man of sin, studying, of course, with the idea. He's also called there, in that same passage, 2 Thessalonians [2:3], "the son of destruction." The son of destruction.

Tonight, we come to the chapter in Revelation where we meet this man, and we learn of his evil empire. Let me remind you of where we are. We're looking at chapters 6 through 18, which encompass the seven-year tribulation period that is to come. Chapter 6, you have the first six seals. Then in chapter 7, there's an interlude as we look at the tribulation saints, those who are saved as a result of the ministry that happens in that time. Then in chapters 8 and 9, the 7th seal, and the 7th seal contains the trumpets. And there you have the first six trumpet judgments poured out in chapters 8 through 9. Then again, there's an interlude in chapter 10 through the middle of chapter 11, where we are told about a little book and the two witnesses who will stand on God's behalf. In 11:15-19, you have the 7th trumpet. And then suddenly there's another, a third interlude in chapters 12 to 14, which is where we find ourselves. That'll be followed in chapters 15 and 16 by the seven bowl judgments, and then the destruction of Babylon recorded in 17 and 18 before you have the return of Jesus Christ in chapter 19.

Now, when you look at that outline in 11:15, the 7th angel sounds his trumpet. But the devastating effects of the trumpet and the bowl judgments that come out of it are not recorded until chapters 15 to 18. So, chapters 12 through 14 are a third interlude in this book. These chapters describe events that occur throughout the entire seven-year tribulation. In other words, the events of chapters 12 to 14 overlay the events of chapters 6 through 11. They are contemporaneous, happening during the same period of time. So let me give you then, an outline, an overview, of those chapters in the interlude of Revelation 12 to 14.

In chapter 12, we've already studied Satan's long war against God, His Messiah and His people. In 12:1-17, we saw that he has constantly warred against God and will continue that war until he's ultimately defeated. Then, in chapter 13, we're introduced to Satan's generals during one aspect of that war, specifically his tribulation campaign. In the first ten verses of chapter 13, we meet the first of those generals. It's the beast from the sea, it's the false Christ, it's the antichrist. And then in 13:11-18, we meet the second of his generals during the tribulation, and that is the beast from the earth. It's the false prophet who promotes the antichrist and the worship of antichrist. Then in chapter 14, we will discover Satan's defeat at the hand of Jesus Christ. That's this interlude of these three chapters, chapters 12, 13 and 14.

So tonight, we come to the second part of that interlude, where at the beginning of chapter 13, we meet the first of Satan's generals during his tribulation campaign, the antichrist. Let's read it together, Revelation 13:1:

And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshipped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?" There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.

Now, the point of these verses I have encapsulated in this way: During the future seven-year tribulation that follows the rapture of the church, Satan will raise up and empower a profoundly evil human ruler as a false messiah who will rule and receive the worship of the entire world. That's the point of these ten verses. Now, the believers in the first century to whom John wrote this book, the seven churches there in Asia Minor, they already knew a lot about this person. The prophet Daniel, as we discovered, as we worked our way through Daniel's prophecy, has a lot to say about this person. If you weren't here when we studied Daniel, go back and listen to those messages and walk through these passages, because there's so much in Daniel that I won't be able to bring in in its entirety. In Daniel 7:8 and 7:21, this person is pictured as the little horn who speaks arrogant words and wages war against the saints. In Daniel 8:23-25, he's the king who will arise. In Daniel 9:26-27, he's the wicked prince who will arise from the remnants of the old Roman Empire and establish an empire of his own. In Daniel 11:36-45, he is the willful king who exalts himself against God, who puts all of his confidence in his military power, and who rejects all gods except himself.

Jesus described this person as well. In fact, Jesus noted his most notorious act, called the “abomination of desolation,” in the Olivet discourse, in Matthew 24:15-16. Paul describes the career of this man in his second letter to the Thessalonians in 2:3-10. And here, John adds his own thorough description of this man.

This is, folks, the most famous, sinful, evil person in history. It is the antichrist, the powerful political ruler during the coming great tribulation. In 1 John 2:19, he is called the antichrist. By the way, it's only in John's letters that he's called that, the antichrist. We'll come back to that name in a little bit. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul calls him "the man of lawlessness" or the man of sin, the man who is characterized by lawlessness and by sin. Revelation 13 and 17, he's called "the beast," and we'll examine the significance of that in a moment.

From here, in chapter 13 through chapter 20, this person plays a crucial role, and so it's important that we get to know who he is. And in Revelation 13, John gives us here two primary descriptions of this future world ruler. First of all, in verses 1 to 4, we will learn about his person. And then, in verses 5 through 10, we will learn about his career. So, his person and his career.

Tonight, we begin by considering the person of antichrist in verses 1 through 4. I love the way John MacArthur and his commentary on this passage sort of introduces it. He writes this:

In the chaotic times of confusion, uncertainty and unrest that will prevail during the tribulation, the world will long for a leader. People will be desperately hoping for someone powerful and influential to unite the divided and contentious nations of the world, someone to bring hope in the midst of helplessness, someone to provide a sense of security in an unsettled time of apprehension and fear. People will be desperately seeking a strong, charismatic, authoritative leader to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Those longings will be fulfilled.

They're fulfilled in this person.

Now, in these verses, we're going to discover five facts about this future person who will, in fact, be the very face of evil itself.

First of all, we learn about his meteoric rise, verse 1: "And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea." The first sentence of verse 1 connects to, and may even belong with, chapter 12. Some older versions, and maybe your version, puts those first words, "The dragon stood on the sand of the seashore," as the end of chapter 12. But it really is a hinge. It belongs in both places, because that phrase, that sentence, pictures Satan standing on the sand of the seashore, sort of a picture of him standing, looking over the nations of the world as if they belong to him, waiting anxiously for the appearance of this person whom he will inspire and empower.

Then suddenly notice John saw a beast coming up out of the sea. He's a beast. This obviously goes back to the picture of the world empires in Daniel 7, where the empires of the world are described as "beasts." You know, when Nebuchadnezzar had his dream, and in his vision, he saw the empires of the world as "precious metals" and this "wonderful man." That's the human view of the empires of the world. God's view comes in Daniel 7 when God sees them as ravaging, destructive beasts. That's the picture here. This person is a vicious, wild beast, one that savagely, brutally, ferociously destroys.

As Daniel does, John uses the image of a beast to refer both to the person who oversees the kingdom and to the kingdom over which he rules. And it really includes both ideas. This beast is clearly a person. The rest of this passage uses personal pronouns. Daniel and Paul both describe him as a person. At the same time, the beast also represents the kingdom he rules, which will become clear as this passage unfolds. The focus is the man, but it includes the kingdom that he rules.

Now, John pictures him here as rising suddenly from obscurity to massive meteoric fame. He's described as suddenly arising, as coming up out of the sea. Again, the picture goes back to Daniel 7, where there in verse 3 we read, "And four great beasts," in that case, four different empires, were "coming up from the sea." And here, antichrist is described in the same way. Now, some argue, based on a couple of different texts in Scripture, that we should interpret "out of the sea" as meaning "coming from the Gentile nations."

Now, let me just say, and if you're familiar with prophecy at all, you know that there has been a long-raging battle over whether the antichrist will be a Jew or a Gentile. And I'm not here to settle that for you without question, but I will tell you this. The argument for his being Jewish is primarily Daniel 11:37, which says that he will pay no attention to "the gods of his father." Some say that's singular, to the "god" of his father, meaning the God of Israel, so this person is Jewish. But as I taught through Daniel 11, and I pointed out to you, all that means in its context is that this man, the antichrist, will completely reject the religion of his ancestors.

So, the question is, what is the religion of his ancestors? Well, since he will come from a reconstituted version of the Roman Empire, according to Daniel 7, the religion of his ancestors will either be the pagan religions of ancient Rome or more likely some form of Christianity, apostate Christianity. But regardless, Daniel is clear that he will arise from the former Roman Empire. Go back and listen to Daniel 7 and you'll see that clearly brought out.

In addition to that, Daniel presents Antiochus Epiphanes. You remember, that terrible Syrian ruler in the period between the testaments, the 400 silent years? Daniel presents that man as a type of antichrist. And so, it seems likely to me that antichrist will be Gentile. I don't see any biblical warrant for his being Jewish. But regardless, that's not what the sea stands for in verse 1, because John clearly teaches this person will rise from the abyss. Look at [Revelation] 11:7: "When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them." Look at [Revelation] 17:8: There, "the beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come out of the abyss and go to destruction."

So, the antichrist comes out of the abyss, out of the demonic holding place. Now, don't misunderstand: Antichrist will not be a demon. Antichrist will be a man. Two Thessalonians 2:3 says he is the man of lawlessness who exalts himself as being God (verse 4). Revelation 13:18 says, "Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man." So, antichrist will be a man, but at some point in his life he will be indwelt by a powerful cunning demon who arises from the abyss. This demon-possessed man will be an incredible intellectual genius. He will be a gifted speaker and orator; he will possess great charm and charisma; he will be a powerful world leader. And added to all of those natural powers that he will possess will be the power of Satan himself. And the result of that, when you put the natural gifting of this leader together with the empowering of this powerful demon, you have someone who possesses, really, almost superhuman power, who is incredibly intelligent and who is consummately wicked.

But he will rise suddenly, I think, and we studied this when we started or when we were walking through our study of the early chapters back in chapter 6, I think he will rise to meteoric fame in the aftermath of the rapture, and suddenly he will be exposed as the one who can solve earth's problems. That's his meteoric rise.

There's a second fact here about his person, and that is his political power. [Revelation 13:1] goes on to say, "Having ten horns and seven heads." Now, that should sound familiar. If you go back to 12:3, Satan is described very similarly: "Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems." So, a very similar expression for the antichrist that was used for Satan himself back in chapter 12. This human ruler, controlled by Satan, will have a remarkable resemblance to the one who empowers him. First, notice we're told that he will have ten horns. As we've learned on multiple occasions in our study of Daniel and, even already, in the study of Revelation throughout Scripture, horns symbolize power, as they do for the animals who have them. Here, the ten horns symbolize the power of the kings who will rule under antichrist's authority.

In Daniel chapter 7, the number "ten" is used in conjunction with the fourth beast, that new manifestation of the old Roman Empire that will arise near the end of the age. And there, the ten horns are ten kings and kingdoms that will arise from what was once the Roman Empire. Daniel 7 says out of those ten kings and kingdoms, another horn suddenly appears, and this ruler will start small, but will grow to subdue three of the ten nations and to lead the other seven. But Daniel 7:23 says he'll not only rule those ten nations, but he'll rule the entire world. So, he'll start with a localized empire in Europe that will grow to encompass the entire world.

Now, the seven heads here represent successive world empires, as we'll discover in chapter 17. I'll wait till we get there to explain that, but essentially, the seven heads represent the seven world empires: Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and antichrist's future kingdom. The ten horns are rulers. In verse 1, we find in chapter 17, all rule at the same time. [Revelations] 17:12 says, "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour." That is, they all rule simultaneously for a short period of time. It's a coalition. What you're talking about with these ten kings and kingdoms is a coalition that is led by antichrist that starts regionally and spreads to take the entire world.

Daniel has a revelation about antichrist's kingdom. Go back to Daniel, chapter 2. And you remember, after the vision of the image, you remember with the successive empires of the world: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and then Rome. In verse 41, we find another kingdom that comes out of that fourth kingdom, that comes out of Rome. And this is how it's described in Daniel 2:41:

In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. And in that you saw the iron mix with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery.

And then, here in verse 44 is Christ destroying the kingdom of antichrist:

In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.

So, what you have then is the fact that antichrist will be a powerful future political leader. He will rule the entire world. Although the final world empire will be a new manifestation of the Roman Empire, it will not stay a ten-nation European confederacy. It will grow to encompass the entire world.

Now go back to verse 1 of our text: "And on his horns were ten diadems." The Greek word "diadem" refers to the kinds of crowns that royalty wears. This is not the "stephanos." This is not the crown that's made of leaves. This is instead a royal crown. So, antichrist and his regents, those who rule on his behalf, will possess royal authority and kingly power and it'll spread around the world. That's his political power.

There's a third fact here about his person, and that is his beastly character. Verse 1 says, "And on his heads were blasphemous names." This isn't too surprising. Throughout human history, normally evil kings and emperors have taken divine names and titles to themselves. In so doing, they have blasphemed the true and living God. Antichrist and his agents will do the same, but they'll do it on steroids. Second Thessalonians 2:14, in fact, turn there with me. Second Thessalonians chapter 2 and kind of keep a mark here because I'll come back here a couple of times. This is Paul's lengthy description of this man in his career. But notice in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, what's going on here is people in the Thessalonian church had been taught by Paul that the day of the Lord wouldn't come before the rapture. But others had come along now and tried to convince them no, they were in the day of the Lord, that they had misunderstood Paul. And so, Paul is setting the record straight and he says in verse 3, "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come," the day of the Lord will not come "unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction." He says there's going to be a person who's going to come on the scenes before the massive destruction of the day of the Lord is unveiled.

And the apostasy, that's probably a reference to what comes in verse 4. This man, antichrist, will oppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God in Jerusalem, displaying himself as being God. That's what Jesus calls, in Matthew 24, the "abomination of desolation," using the same title Daniel does as well. It's when antichrist is done trying to mollify the Jewish people, and instead, he declares war on all those who name the true God. And he establishes, in the temple, the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, at the midpoint of the tribulation, an image of himself to be worshipped. So, he will wear the names of blasphemy.

Now, back in our text — again, keep your finger in 2 Thessalonians — but back in Revelation, notice that as John investigated this beast more carefully, he discovered in this beast the same characteristics of three of the animals in Daniel's vision, in Daniel 7:3-7: the leopard, the bear and the lion. All of those occur in Daniel 7 in the vision of the successive world empires. And all three of those were animals found in Israel. In Daniel 7, these animals represent three successive world empires. The lion represented the Babylonians, the bear represented the Medo-Persians, and the leopard represented the Greeks. Here in our text, in verse 2, they're reversed, in reverse order, probably because John is looking back now.

In Daniel 7, you'll remember that the fourth beast representing the Roman Empire and the future revived Roman Empire shared characteristics of all three of the previous beasts. Antichrist, in his kingdom, will be a blending of all of the empires throughout history that have stood against God and His people. And John here makes the same point, verse 2: "And the beast which I saw was like a leopard." Antichrist and his future kingdom will, like the Greeks under Alexander the Great, be characterized by speedy conquests, like a leopard. Verse 2 goes on to say, "And his feet were like those of a bear." Like the previous Medo-Persian empire, the kingdom of antichrist will exhibit incredible stability, exceptional power and ferocity like that of a bear. And his mouth "like the mouth of a lion." Like the Babylonians, antichrist in his kingdom will be fierce and dominating with the unique power to defeat and consume everything that gets in their way. This is the kingdom of antichrist. This is his rule. He incorporates the worst of all of the empires that have come before him. He embodies the speed of the blitzkrieg, the speed of Alexander the Great. He embodies the ferocity and stability and power of Medo-Persia and the dominating, lion-like consuming of everything of the Babylonians.

Now, after his rise to power, for a time, the world will think that they found everything they're looking for in him. There will be euphoria. For a short time under his leadership, as we saw in the early part of the tribulation, there will be peace and prosperity, but it won't be for long. It won't be long until the world discovers that the antichrist truly is a beast. He will quickly become a dictator, more powerful, more cruel, more cunning than any leader the world has ever known. That is his beastly character.

John reveals a fourth fact about this person, and that is his supernatural patron, Satan. Satan uses humans to carry out his plans on Earth. In one sense, he uses all unbelievers. I've quoted John 8:44 a lot recently because there's so much there. But Jesus said all unbelievers are of their father, the devil, and want to do the desires of their father. But in the fullest sense, throughout history, some humans have been especially under Satan's immediate, powerful, direct control. Think of Judas. In Luke 22:3, Satan entered into Judas, who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. That's a chilling statement: Satan entered into Judas. In the future, Satan will possess and empower one man as he has none other in human history. Verse 2 says, "And the dragon," we've already met this person, this is a picture of Satan again as a destructive beast, Satan gave antichrist "his power and his throne and great authority." You see, this future human will be uniquely gifted, naturally gifted. But that will not be the real explanation for his success. Instead, it's because the dragon, Satan, will give him — notice — "his power." Satan will empower antichrist with his own power.

He will give him his throne. This likely means that antichrist will share Satan's throne in the same way that Christ, the true Messiah, shares the Father's throne. Satan will give him his dominion and great authority. Satan will give antichrist unrestrained power to act over the entire world. In fact, notice verse 7: "Over every tribe and people and tongue and nation." Now, when you add to what Satan gives him, the fact that God, during the same period of time, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:7, will remove his supernatural restraints, probably a reference to the Holy Spirit, then you begin to understand the worldwide power and domination of antichrist. The Holy Spirit pulls back his restraint against evil and God allows the power of Satan through this evil wretched human being, demon-possessed, the face of evil, to rule the world. It can all be traced back to his supernatural patron.

A fifth fact about this person, and this is really shocking, is his counterfeit death and resurrection, in verses 3 and 4. When you think about the word "antichrist", the word that's used in 1 John of this person, the prefix "anti" in the word "antichrist" can mean either “against Christ” or it can mean “instead of Christ,” as a substitute for Christ. In the case of this person, it is both. He is opposed to Jesus and His followers. He is "anti" (against) in that sense. And he offers himself instead of Christ, in place of Christ, as a counterfeit messiah. Satan has always tried to counterfeit the real thing, tried to counterfeit the Messiah, the one that God had promised to send from Genesis 3:15 on. In the first century, the apostle John, in 1 John 2:18, said, "Many antichrists have appeared," precursors to this final one. Jesus predicted that at the end of human history there would be a proliferation of false Christs, false messiahs. Mark 13:6, and then 13:21-22 reads this way:

Many will come in My name, saying "I am He!" and will mislead many. And then if anyone says to you, "Behold, here is the Christ"; or, "Behold, He is there"; do not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

Jesus said there's going to be many, there's going to be many of them. But all of those satanic counterfeits will culminate in the archetype, the final antichrist. He will be more powerful, cruel and evil than all the rest. And he will also be the cleverer counterfeit to imitate the real Messiah and to strengthen his grip on the world. This false messiah will experience an apparent death and resurrection. Verse 3 says it this way: "I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed." Now, some have argued that the expressions there in verse 3 don't describe the death and resurrection of a person, but only describe the destruction of a kingdom or an empire and its restoration. That doesn't fit the context, because other passages clearly say that the beast himself will be killed: [Revelation] 13:12,14; 17:8,11. In addition, look at verse 3. The personal pronoun "his" implies a person. In addition, it's highly unlikely that the revival of the Roman Empire would cause the shock and astonishment described in these verses. So, in context then, this verse is describing events, not that are of a kingdom, but rather that unfold in the life of a person, the future antichrist.

So, look at verse 3 again: "I saw one of his heads." Now that can be confusing, but look down at verse 14, because in verse 14 we learn it is antichrist himself that we're talking about, as if it had been slain. Literally, the Greek text says, "As though slaughtered or butchered to death." You remember the word we saw this morning in 1 John, that Cain "butchered" his brother. That's the word that's used here, as though "slaughtered" or "butchered." The wording here could mean that his violent death will actually be real, that he will truly die, and God will allow a resurrection. Verse 14 speaks of the signs it was given him to perform.

But this could also be, as Satan is so prone to do, a lie. It could be a satanic sleight of hand. But regardless, it will be an intentional counterfeit of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. It's satanic deception. Go back to 2 Thessalonians 2:9: "That is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs," so he has power, he's able to perform signs, but notice this, "and false wonders."

So, it's very possible that we're not looking at a real death and resurrection at all. We're looking at a false wonder. Regardless, don't miss the counterfeit. Go back to Revelation again and look at verse 3. The wording of verse 3 is identical. What's described here about what happens to the antichrist is identical to that of the real Messiah in 5:12, where we read, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." Same word, that was "slaughtered," that was "butchered." So, Satan is intentionally copying, he's intentionally counterfeiting, the real Messiah in order to lead the world astray, to embrace his impostor.

Satan will empower antichrist and the false prophet to make it appear to the world that antichrist has died. But look at verse 3: "And his fatal wound was healed." Go down to verse 14 and look how it's described there: "The beast had the wound of the sword," some kind of deadly weapon, "and has come to life." Some have suggested that it's not death itself that happens here. In other words, it's not like someone assassinates this person or defeats him in battle, butchers him, slaughters him. But rather, antichrist will claim to be the reincarnation of Jesus of Nazareth. That doesn't seem to be to me what's implied here. But, regardless of how it unfolds, the point is this: The entire planet will become convinced under Satanic deception that this charismatic world ruler has died and been raised from the dead.

Notice his followers' response, verse 3. First of all, they follow antichrist. Verse 3 says, "And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast." They are amazed. It means "to be extraordinarily impressed, to wonder, to marvel, to be astonished." And then you'll notice the words "and followed" are added by our translators. Literally, it says, "The whole earth was amazed, and then after the beast." That is a very interesting expression because this preposition that's translated "after" here is used most commonly in Jesus' sermons when He says this: "If anyone would come after Me," meaning "if anyone wants to follow me as my disciple." And that's the idea here.

People will become so captivated, so enamored with this false messiah who appears to have died and been raised from the dead, that they will follow him as his disciples, as if he were the Messiah. That's the point of antichrist. He's presenting himself as the Messiah. And many will believe and follow. But it goes way beyond that.

They also worship Satan. Notice verse 4: "They worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast." Unbelievers under satanic deception will end up worshipping the dragon or Satan himself. Now, it's unclear here if they will do that knowingly or if they'll worship the devil unwittingly by worshipping his minion, antichrist. I think it's likely that some will intentionally worship Satan. They'll understand the connection and will purposely, intentionally worship Satan. But I think most will probably be deceived, just like those who worship idols today. One Corinthians 10:20: "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God." They're deceived by demons into thinking they're gods, and they worship demons when they think they're worshipping gods.

So, deceived unbelievers will believe they are worshipping a divinely empowered world leader messiah. But in reality, they'll be worshipping Satan and they will worship antichrist. Verse 4 says, "And they worshiped the beast." Now this is at his prompting. Remember 2 Thessalonians 2:4? He "opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." So, he initiates this worship in Revelation 13, and we'll look at it in just a moment.

Later in this chapter we discover that they will focus their worship on an image of him that will be erected in the temple. This is what Daniel, in Daniel 9:27, and what our Lord, in Matthew 24:15, called "the abomination of desolation," when antichrist erects an image of himself in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and sets himself up as the object of divine worship. How can that happen? Well, remember again, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, "The one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders."

But how exactly does it happen? Go down to Revelation 13 and look at verse 12. This is the false prophet. This is the partner of the antichrist: "He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast," antichrist, "whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men," apparently makes lightning fall where he desires.

And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

This is how it happens. It happens because some gullibly believe the deception and lies of Satan and antichrist. It happens because they are compelled by antichrist himself. And it happens by force and coercion and trickery by the false prophet.

Now go back to verse 4 and notice the expression of the worship of the world of antichrist. Notice their praise of the beast in verse 4, saying, "Who is like the beast?" Tragically, they use the same language for this satanically-empowered human that Scripture uses for God, "Who is like God?" They say, "Who is like the beast? Who is like the antichrist?" Paul says, "They treat him as if he were God." Their questions are rhetorical and both questions call for the answer: No one. In their deceived minds, no one has the power or right to challenge the antichrist. He is unrivaled. He is supreme. He's the world's greatest political authority and he holds the world's greatest military power. And he is the only object worthy of worship in the universe. Who is like him? Who are these people? Who are these people caught up in this worldwide satanic deception? Go back again to 2 Thessalonians 2:10: "And with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish." Why? "Because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." Who will be deceived by all of this? It'll be those who have been exposed to the gospel we've talked about. The gospel is going to be everywhere during the tribulation. We'll see it again as the rest of this letter unfolds. They will have ignored the message of the gospel and because of that they will cling to the lie. There you have the person of the antichrist.

Next time, Lord willing, we'll consider the career of the antichrist. But let me finish our time together with several implications. Just some things for you to consider as a result of our study.

First of all, Satan still empowers the unbelieving rulers of our world. God has permitted Satan to rule over the world system that stands opposed to God, of course always under God's control. Still, Satan can be legitimately called the ruler of this world. Our Lord called him that in John 12:31. Satan has control and power and influence over all of the unbelieving leaders and world empires. You remember, in Luke 4:6, the devil said to Jesus, "I will give you all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I will give it to whomever I wish." Now, Satan's a liar, so you can't trust everything he said there. But you know from other places that while God rules over all the kingdoms of man and places on it in leadership whom He will, He has also given authority to Satan to have incredible influence among the evil rulers of this world. Don't ever forget that our hope is not in political rulers.

Number two: Satan's goal is to kill, destroy and enslave. And he uses earth's human rulers to accomplish it. He will then, he does today.

Number three: Satan's ultimate goal is to replace the worship of the true God and His Messiah with himself and his counterfeit messiah and to establish his own permanent substitute kingdom on earth. That's what Satan wants to do. You see it unfolding in the book of Revelation.

[Number four:] But here's the good news. We sang it earlier. It's not going to happen. Jesus Christ will personally destroy the antichrist. Go back to 2 Thessalonians 2:8. I love this: "Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming." By the breath of his mouth. In other words, Jesus won't lift a finger against antichrist in his worldwide empire, in his military might. He will simply speak, and he'll be destroyed. I love the way it's put in Revelation 20:10: At the end of the thousand years, the millennium, "the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Jesus Christ our Lord is the only true Messiah and your faith is not misplaced when it's in Him.

Number five: If you have refused to accept Jesus' invitation to follow Him, if you've refused the gospel, then understand this, dear friend. You have already believed the satanic lie. And if you survive until the tribulation, you will worship the beast. Two Thessalonians 2:10 goes on to say for this reason, "because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." Friend, if you've not believed in Jesus Christ, that's the end of your story. But it doesn't have to be.

How can the deception be broken? The way it can be broken now, the way it will be broken then, is the same. The answer is in 2 Corinthians. Turn there with me, 2 Corinthians 4:3. This is true now; it'll be true during the tribulation. Paul writes, "[And] even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake."

Listen: If you're here tonight and you've not believed in Jesus Christ, you have been deceived by Satan. Somehow, he has given you the lie that there is something better outside of God, your Creator, outside of His provision of a Messiah, outside of His Savior, Jesus Christ. And you believe the lie. How in the world can that deception be broken? He answers it here, 2 Corinthians 4:6. Here's the only way it's ever broken: God has to intervene miraculously. "For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shown in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

That's my prayer for you tonight, that the very same God who, in creating the world, said, "'Let there be light'; and there was light," would say that in your darkened soul. That he would say, "Let there be light." You see the Light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, in the gospel, in the fact that God sent His only Son into the world to live a perfect life and then to die the death of a substitute, dying in the place, satisfying the justice of God against every sin of every person who would ever believe. And then God raised Him from the dead, and everyone who believes in Him has eternal life. May God let that light shine in your heart tonight. If you'll simply turn in repentance and faith, God will receive you. Let's pray together.

Father, thank you for the gospel, and thank you for telling us the future, for letting us get a glimpse of what is going to transpire so that we don't have to live in anxiety, we don't have to live in fear. But we know that we have the real Messiah, your Son sent from heaven, who lived and died for us and whom You raised from the dead and who's coming again, and who, with the breath of His mouth, will destroy Satan's counterfeit and establish His kingdom. Lord, help us to live like those who worship the true Messiah, who worship the true God, and who have the only message of Light that opens blinded eyes. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

Antichrist - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

Antichrist - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

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