The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
The Concordant Version
THE TWO WILD BEASTS
IN the twelfth chapter of the Unveiling, we have an outline of the dragon's defeat in the heavens and of the failure of its effort to destroy the male son and the sun-clothed woman. It now turns to the rest of her seed, the faithful ones among the nations, as well as the apostates whose center is in Babylon, and it establishes its worship over all the other nations of the earth. In these operations, it makes use of the great human organization which it has built up and especially energizes two men to carry out its behests. They are characterized as wild beasts. In the Authorized Version the use of the common term "beast" for the animals which are incorporated into God's throne (4:6) and this ferocious monster, is quite misleading and inexcusable. The Revisers have changed the former to "living ones" but they retain the simple word "beast" here. This is inadequate. The lion, the bullock, the man, and the vulture are animals while the leopard, the bear, the lion, and the nondescript are here merged into a ferocious wild beast.
It must be kept in mind that the Jews no longer refuse to swear allegiance to gentile governments and rulers. They have been naturalized in almost every country on earth. They have proven their patriotism on many a battlefield, often fighting against their own brethren. They would readily support any man who could gain the political supremacy of the earth. They will vote for him. They will fight for him. But they will not worship him. Up to the middle of Daniel's seventieth heptad, Satan presses the political supremacy of his human representative. Then the covenant with the Jews, allowing them to worship Yahweh, is broken. The daily offering ceases. Satan worship, in the person of the wild beast, is forced on mankind. It is fitting, therefore, that this part of the Unveiling should be occupied almost exclusively with the second half of Daniel's "week," which begins about three and a half years after the white horse rider commences his conquering career (6:2).
It is usually supposed that "Christianity" is based on supernatural manifestations. Few notions as false as this, have been so readily received. Even theologians teach that our Lord appealed to His miraculous acts to confirm His message. In our own day it is usual to ascribe every supernatural occurrence, or what seems to be such, to the direct hand of God. It is Satan who appeals to miracles in these days and in the end time. He knows the overwhelming effect of a palpable miracle on the populace and begins his great effort for worldwide worship by working a wonder so nearly divine in its significance that it might easily deceive the very elect unless they had been forewarned.
There never was and there never will be a greater power, sign, wonder, or miracle than the resurrection of Christ from the dead. So likewise, there had been no greater proof that He was God's Son than His ability to recall the dead to life. Vivification is God's prerogative. Satan has the jurisdiction of death, but he never could bring back to life. Now, however, God is back of Satan, and is sending those who have no love for the truth an "operation of deception," that they should believe the falsehood (2 Thess.2:11). To all appearances, at least, Satan brings back to life one who had been slain. As this one died, by the sword (13:14), he must have been involved in violence, possibly assassination. In the cryptic language of a later vision, he was, and is not, and is about to be ascending out of the abyss (17:8).
But Satan is too worldly-wise to raise a peasant of Palestine, such as Lazarus, or the son of the widow of Nain, or an obscure maiden who was unknown outside her own small circle. He picks a man well known in all the earth, the cynosure of a wondering world, a colossus who has raised himself to the zenith of political power by his military conquests and diplomatic successes. He selects a subject who occupies the center of the stage, whose every move is chronicled in the daily press, whose death engulfs the world in grief and whose assassination is the greatest sensation of the day. He chooses one who already had the political allegiance of all mankind, who had reconciled a warring world under one banner, and who promised to bring untold prosperity and peace, now that he had united all under his leadership.
In a day all these hopes are dashed to the ground. The great conqueror is killed. The vast confederacy he had created collapses when he is gone. No one is able to replace him. Chaos once more threatens to reign and destroy, not only the fabric of the world empire he had founded, but menaces the very existence of civilization. Humanity's one great need was a man capable of dominating and directing mankind, a superman capable of holding the helm of human government. He comes, and, in the zenith of his power and promise, sinks beneath the sword. His death magnifies the magnificence of his career, and the benefits which had come or were yet to accrue from his forced federation of the world.
This is the man and this is the moment for Satan's master miracle. To bring him back from the dead would not only restore him to supreme political power, but would assure him the homage and worship of the world, and through him, Satan could claim the universal adoration of mankind. And thus it will be. The great conqueror of the end time will also be the head of one of the great religious divisions, probable of the nondescript monster with ten horns. That would make him the pope as well as the political head of all Christendom, besides being the conqueror of the world. He will be like an emperor of ancient Rome, who was the pontifex maximus as well as the king of Rome and head of the empire. The same is true today of the king of England, for he is not only the head of the British empire but also the spiritual lord of the national church.
One of the puzzling points in the passages dealing with the wild beast is the way in which the wounded head seems to be identified with the whole. We read not only that "one of its heads was as it had been slain to death" (13:3), but also of "the wild beast which has the blow of the sword and lives" (13:4). It is evident that the wounded head has a double part. He is not only one of the heads but he is the dominating spirit of the entire confederacy. Just as the ruler of Rome was also the emperor, as the king of England is the head of the British empire, so the wounded head of one of earth's seven subdivisions is the suzerain of all.
The dragon was standing on the sands of the sea (12:17). When the waters are symbolic in this book, they signify peoples and throngs and nations and languages (17:15). It is of these that the wild beast is composed. As a world kingdom, it comes out of the confused tumult and restless surging of the peoples of the earth. When the wild beast is spoken of as an individual, he ascends from the abyss (11:7; 17:8). At first he ascends out of the sea as one of the heads of the wild beast. After he is slain he comes out of the abyss. And to it is given authority over every tribe and language and people and nation.
We have found many a striking contrast between the present grace as presented in Paul's epistles, and the revelation of God's wrath at the time of the end. The wild beasts and their career were spoken of by Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians (2 Thess.2:1-12). Some have deduced from this that "the church will go through the tribulation." Some suppose Paul's letter cannot refer to the present grace because of this. But the presence of a word, or the mere mention of a name, proves nothing apart from its bearing on the argument of the epistle. Paul's reasoning is based on the fact that these lawless men cannot be revealed until we are out of the way. So utterly different, so diametrically opposed, are God's dealings in these two eras, that it is absolutely impossible for both to be staged at the same time.
The first epistle to the Thessalonians is the earliest writing of the Greek Scriptures. The book of Acts gives us the kingdom side of Paul's ministry. The first intimation that there was to be another side is found in Thessalonians. The fact that the two letters to the Thessalonians are the very beginning of Paul's new departure leads us to expect that they should conform very closely to what we have in Acts, for much which is ours by grace was not revealed until a later time. Whatever tinge there may be of the kingdom message to Israel, however, is used as a background and a contrast. It is not carried over.
It has been suggested that angelic ministry is for Israel, and the presence of the archangel (1 Thess.4:16) has to do with the kingdom, not the church. Granted that angelic ministry is for Israel, but the mere presence of the word angel or messenger surely proves nothing. It is used only once in the Thessalonian group (2 Thess.1:7) and then concerns, not Christ's coming for us, but His unveiling when we are at ease. The word occurs ten times in the preparatory epistles, once in the perfection epistles, and twice in the personal epistles. Its mere presence, therefore, is by no means indicative of kingdom teaching. But some insist that Michael, the archangel, is only for Israel. This is quite true. But Paul does not say that the archangel accompanies our Lord. He insists that the Lord Himself descends, not with an accompanying messenger, but with his voice. Just so He sounds the trumpet of God. We surely cannot deduce from this that God accompanies Him! There is no angelic ministry whatever to the Thessalonians.
Nevertheless, to read Thessalonians intelligently, we must remember that we are reading about the boundaries of the present grace. Not only are we near the past frontiers of this economy, but we are occupied with its future conclusion and the succeeding administration of God's indignation, when the kingdom will once more be the subject of divine testimony. It is this which especially engages us at this time. This ought to enable us to come to a clear conception of the relation we sustain to the impending era of wrath. The Unveiling should throw light on Thessalonians and vice versa. Their joint testimony will keep us from incorrect conclusions.
In the Unveiling, the great affliction is especially directed against the various classes in Israel--the male son, the sun-clothed woman, and the rest of her seed. In Thessalonians, all is concerned with the nations, or gentiles. They turned to God from idols. No Israelite could do this, for, since the return from the captivity, they have not worshiped idols. If it referred to them, moreover, it would have been returned, not turned. Such a statement is especially inapplicable to Israel at the time of the end, for they suffer because they will not serve an idol. Should they worship the image, no return to God would be possible at that time. The Thessalonians "waited" for God's Son. This is a special word, often used of waiting a full term, without any intervening incident. With Israel, it is either watch or endure, for there will be many indications and much suffering preceding His advent as the Son of Mankind.
We must remember that the coming of Israel's Messiah was hovering over the nation throughout the period of the book of Acts. It was to be preceded by the opening judgments of the day of the Lord. It would be a matter of immediate moment to the Thessalonians to know what would become of them in that great crisis. They had so much trial that they, like many other saints since their day, could not help thinking that God was acting in judgment, and, therefore, that the day of indignation had come. To relieve them of this fear Paul was given a special revelation, "by the word of the Lord." This is of extraordinary interest to us, now that we have seen how the saints of Israel will be dealt with. The male son will be divinely sheltered on Mount Zion. The woman will be sustained in the wilderness. The rest will be left to bear the infliction. What becomes of believers among the nations?
Believing gentiles and Jews, under Paul's ministry, will not come under any of these classes. They have no covenant claims. They do not deserve aught. They are treated after the pattern of Paul's conversion. Grace steps in. God did not appoint them to indignation but to the procuring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, that, whether watchful or drowsing, they should live together with Him (1 Thess.5:9,10). They have a future salvation, as well as a past and a present one. This fends them from future wrath. And where will they be? Sheltered on Mount Zion, or safe in the wilderness, watching for His advent? No! They will be caught up into the air, to meet the Lord Himself and be with Him there.
But such grace is not easy to entertain, even by saints who have much more light than was vouchsafed to the Thessalonians at that early day. Continued persecutions and afflictions dimmed their eyes. An epistle purporting to come from Paul shook their minds and alarmed them, for it insisted that the day of the Lord was already present (2 Thess.2:2). In order to correct this delusion the apostle brings in the apostasy and the wild beast of the Unveiling, whom he terms the "man of lawlessness." He shows that the time of trouble which they supposed was present would not come until this lawless one was on the scene (Matt.24:15). He protests that it could not come so long as they themselves restrained the operation of lawlessness.
The reading "day of Christ" (2 Thess.2:2) seems to have led to much misconception of the meaning of this epistle. Perhaps no passage has been used more powerfully against the thought of Christ's imminent advent. The phrase should be "the day of the Lord." There seems to be practically no authority of any weight for the other reading. It does not occur in any of the three most ancient manuscripts. It is not the true reading.
But there is no reason for taking the day to refer to the coming of the Lord. This was given to them as a blessed hope. This was specially imparted to be a comfort to them in their trials and bereavement. This would not shake their minds or alarm them. Rather, they would welcome it with delight. In fact, the apostle appeals to their assembling with Him (2 Thess.2:1) to prove that the day was not present.
The Thessalonians, however, were not perturbed by the thought of its imminence, but were alarmed by a sense of its presence. I believe that the day of the Lord is imminent now, yet it does not alarm me in the least. It gives me joy and the assurance that the coming of Christ is still more imminent. There is much to indicate that the apostasy and the unveiling of the man of lawlessness can not be long delayed. But God prefers us for salvation (2 Thess.2:13). His indignation cannot be poured out until we are out of the way.
We need not, therefore, be concerned because there is no provision made for the safety of the believers among the nations in this part of the apocalypse. The faithful in Israel are sheltered from the wild beasts by divine interposition. They are kept in safety on the earth, which they are destined to rule as the bride of the Lambkin. But the body of Christ, in accordance with its celestial destiny, in harmony with the transcendent grace which it receives and which it will display among the celestials, is transported far above the reach of the wild beasts. Not on Mount Zion or in the wilderness do they find refuge from the fearful infliction, but in the very presence of Christ Himself, above the dark storm clouds that cover the earth. Truly, we are not only saved by grace, but for grace! Israel's sorest trial will find us bathing in ineffable bliss.
THE UNVEILING OF THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
There is an unveiling within this Unveiling. Not only is Christ unveiled throughout, but His false counterfeit is revealed under the figure of the wild beast. Just as Christ is known by various names and titles, corresponding to His offices and relations, so this superman is spoken of in a variety of ways. Paul calls him "the man of lawlessness." Codex Alexandrinus reads "the man of sin," which is followed in the Authorized Version (2 Thess.2:3). The apostle John calls him the Antichrist (1 John 2:8) in his epistles. Both of these have particular reference to the religious side of his unveiling. Too often they are used only of the political aspect, such as is suggested by the king or prince of Daniel.
Paul describes the man of lawlessness, not as the great despot of the end time, not as the head of earthly dominion, but as the object of universal adoration, who opposes all other worship, who elevates himself above every other object of veneration, who sits in the temple of God, who demonstrates that he is God (2 Thess.2:4).
The unveiling of Christ is accomplished by power and is accompanied by signs and miracles. So also will be the unveiling of the lawless one. Satan will supply him with power and signs, and especial stress will be laid on the miraculous display which humanity craves. These are wrought by the second wild beast, who will be the spokesman or prophet of the first.
There may be many marvelous miracles at the time of the end which mankind will accept as divine credentials, but the awful deception of them lies in the fact that they are signs as well as miracles. God, for a time, lends His own power to the enemy. He enables the false prophet to do that which only a true prophet could accomplish in the past. In Elijah's day, the prophets of Baal were defeated because they could not draw down fire from heaven. Elijah made this a test. "The Elohim that answereth by fire, He is Elohim!" The people answered, "Good is the word!" With such a precedent, only those who are forewarned can escape the conclusion that the second wild beast is a prophet of God, for he seems to do precisely what Elijah did (1 Kings 18:24). As a matter of fact both signs are deeply, yet differently significant. The fire of Elijah fell upon the altar and consumed the sacrifice. It stands for the wrath of God which consumed His Son on Golgotha.
The fire which comes down at the behest of the false prophet does not fall upon an altar. It consumes no sacrifice. It speaks of the wrath which was about to fall upon mankind itself because of their worship of the wild beast. As a matter of fact, the second wild beast not only draws down fire from heaven, but brings upon mankind the raging fury of God's wrath, of which the fire is a sign, for he induces them to worship the image of the wild beast.
The second sign is the converse of the first. That speaks of the death of Christ, this is associated with His resurrection. Life has always been recognized as of God alone. Ignorant folk talk of horsehairs turning into worms, and scientists promise to produce life, but so far no life has ever been created except by the hand of God. The resurrection of the wild beast will produce a powerful impression, for, despite all the pretensions of science, no one can even bring back life that has left a dead body. But the vivifying of the image of the wild beast is far more wonderful in its way. The body of the wild beast was that given him by God. It had all the organs necessary to carry on the vital processes. But the image will be an entirely human production. To impart a spirit to it is the most marvelous miracle, the most conclusive sign, that could be presented to mankind to prove the deity of the wild beast.
Life is the great essential in an image of the deity. Idols of stocks and stones, gold or silver, can only misrepresent the living God. Being made by man, not only do they caricature His form, but they fail to reflect any of the essentials of real deity, because they lack vitality and all that flows from it. The meanest worshiper at an idol's shrine is far nearer the divine image than the sacred statue which he adores, for he can think and speak and act and love. In a measure, mankind is made in God's image, hence He often speaks of Himself in terms of humanity. To endow an image with spirit, or life, is the most signal proof of deity which can be given. No mere man can do it. It is only possible through the help of God. The second wild beast will be given this power at the time of the end because it corresponds with God's own activities during that era. His life will be used to destroy. For a brief period, He is like the image of the wild beast.
God's perfect Image, His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, not only had life, but imparted it to others. He became a vivifying Spirit. It is this which makes Him so like God that He conveyed to human perception precisely the impression which God would impart if our senses were capable of perceiving Him. Our eyes cannot behold the invisible God, but they can see His exact Counterpart when they gaze upon His Image. And this Image consists, not in His physical frame, but in His life. Life, abundant life, alone can lead us into acquaintance with the Author of life. Lack of life leads to lawlessness and sin. God is fully exhibited to human sight by Him Who raised the dead, Who, when He laid down His life, had authority to take it again, and Who will ultimately impart eternal life to all.
To give a spirit to the image of the wild beast (13:15) is the equivalent of giving it life. In the original scriptures, life is always associated with spirit. It is deplorable that the translators have so often confused it with soul. Life is not seated in the blood, as the versions affirm. It is the spirit that vivifies. As a result of the impartation of spirit the image talks. What it says is not on record. When the true Image spoke men marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. The words which He uttered were spirit and life. To Jairus' daughter "Talitha coumi!" came with vitalizing power. To the dead son of the widow of Nain, "Youth, I am saying to you, be roused!" proved stronger than the bars of death. To Lazarus, not only dead, but decomposing, His summons, "Come out hither!" led him back to the land of the living.
To fully appreciate the contrast between the true Image and the false, we should allow our hearts to ponder the wealth of affection involved in each of these cases. Only those who have felt a father's fondness for his child can appreciate the joy of Jairus over the restoration of his daughter. Only those who know something of the place an only son would have in the heart of his widowed mother, especially in the East, can imagine the transports which his recall from death would bring. Lazarus was especially beloved. His death brought tears even to the eyes of the Saviour. What a change was wrought by his resurrection! Joy, too sweet and solemn for words, filled the hearts of the sisters. Martha makes Him a dinner. Mary takes precious attar and rubs His feet and wipes them with her hair. His words bring life, and life brings love, and love brings adoration and worship.
What a contrast is Satan's means of making worshipers! The image imparts no life. It does not implant joy in any heart. It inspires fear, for all who will not worship it are doomed. It has the power to kill all who refuse to do homage. It does not need a vivid imagination to picture the awful scenes which follow the setting up of this image. Daniel calls it the abomination which desolates (Matt.24:15). Many a father will be bereaved of his child. Many a widow will mourn her only son. Many a family will be desolated by the loss of a beloved member. Oh, the distress and despair, the weeping and the wailing, the moaning and the anguish which will follow the advent of the image of the wild beast!
THE "MARK" OF THE WILD BEAST
Satan's gospel is not for "whosoever will," but for all, whether they will or not. All must worship the image or die. Their allegiance must be public, open to the eyes of everyone. No one will be allowed to evade it. All classes and conditions must wear the badge of the wild beast. That this is more than a mere "mark" is evident from the way in which it is rendered in Acts 17:29, the only other occurrence. There it is translated graven, and evidently refers to the sculptures of pagan deities. The Greek word is charagma. In the form character, it is rendered express image in Hebrews 1:3. Our word character is directly derived from it, and still conveys the sense of the Greek word in its form characteristic. The "mark" will be a symbolic design, an emblem. Not only do nations have their flags and seals, and societies their badges and pins, but commercial commodities have their trademarks, also.
The "mark" of the beast is not a new idea, but the final development of a very old one. Even religious societies have taken to this scheme. Their members usually wear a pin with some suggestive emblem, as a cross or a crown, or the initial letters of the name of their organization. The "mark" of the wild beast, however, seems to be of a more permanent character. It is put on their right hands or on their foreheads, probably branded or indelibly tattooed in the skin. It seems that there is a choice between three things, the emblem, the name of the wild beast, or the number of its name. One of these must be present. Its absence will lead to suspicion, detection, and death. No one will be able to buy or sell without the brand of the wild beast.
Society, as at present constituted, is based on the exchange, of commodities or service. Except among the most primitive peoples, no one attempts to produce or manufacture all that he needs, or even a small portion. He specializes on one line, exchanges his services or product for money, and with this, he buys the great variety of necessities and luxuries demanded by modern civilization. Whether the advantages of this system are as great as its disadvantages we will not stop to discuss. Certain it is, however, that it will be a terrible handicap to anyone who does not wish to worship the wild beast. He cannot sell and cannot buy. His only possible hope would be a complete severance from human society and escape to some distant region cut off from the rest of the world. There he would need to struggle for his existence with his bare hands.
Of the three different "marks," the emblem, the name, and the number, only one is made known. We can only guess that the emblem will be symbolic of worldwide worship. We do not know the name of the wild beast, but we are told that it corresponds to a certain number. This number is revealed. It is six hundred sixty-six.
The translation "it is the number of a man" tells us nothing new, unless it be that the wild beast is human. The Greek word anthropos is used, not only for a single human, but for mankind as a whole. The precise form used here, the genitive singular, occurs often in the title Son of Man, or, as the Concordant Version has it, Son of Mankind. He was not the Son of a human being merely, though that is true in relation to His mother, but He is the Son of all Humanity. The number 666 is the number of a man because that man's name is appropriate to his position as the head of humanity. In him are concentrated all the attainments of man in alienation from God. He is the flower of the race, the highest ideal to which man can attain in sin. It is most fitting that the number of his name should correspond with the number of mankind.
There can be no question that numbers are significant. This is especially true in the Scriptures, where they are used with precision and intelligence. In Hebrew, the number seven comes from a root meaning satisfy, and this thought may be easily discerned in most instances where it is used. This is most striking in the Unveiling, where we find it on every hand, because of the thorough and satisfactory manner of God's judgments. There are seven ecclesias, seven lampstands, seven stars, seven spirits, seven torches, seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven messengers, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven heads, seven diadems, seven bowls, seven calamities, etc. Like the seven days of a week, these speak of a full cycle and satisfactory accomplishment.
Six is one short of seven, hence suggests a falling short of satisfaction. This, as we all know, characterizes all that man does. He was given six days to do all his work. But it is altogether vanity. His strenuous efforts accomplish nothing worthwhile. Typically, the wild beast comes on the scene at the end of the sixth day. The ensuing millennial era is in the seventh or sabbath. Hence he is the representative of the highest pinnacle of human achievement. Man has been working to uplift, to civilize, to educate, to perfect humanity, and we behold in the wild beast the finished product of his highest endeavors.
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