The Book of Revelation paints astonishing pictures. However, the images are not the actual realities they represent. For example, chapter 6 presents the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The first horseman is a picture of the gospel riding through history and to victory. Compare Psalm 45:3-5. War, famine, and death follow closely. Death’s footman is hell. These enemies of the gospel are both temporal and spiritual. The temporal and secular divert energies and resources from the more essential spiritual. The picture is a powerful portrayal of the forces working out God’s story at the behest of Christ (Revelation 5:9). Albertus Pieters, The Lamb, The Woman and the Dragon, presents this same helpful philosophy of history approach.
Revelation also introduces a pseudo-trinity composed of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. The dragon is the devil, the serpent of old (Revelation 12:9). The beast rising from the sea of nations, the image of the dragon (Revelation 13:1-2), is anti-Christian governmental power. The beast was Rome in the first century. The USSR was a manifestation of the beast in the twentieth century. A professor from Ukraine visiting our church asked after a fellowship dinner, “Seventy years of atheism in the USSR proved its bankruptcy, why is America moving in that direction?” Good question!
Sadly the USA is a modern manifestation of the beast. Democrats and Republicans alike seek answers to our national problems by tinkering with government. Neither big government nor small government will answer the roots of war, famine, and death (James 4:1-4). The real answer to national woes is Jesus Christ; the Kingdom of God is the only eternal kingdom.
The mark of the beast is the work of the unholy spirit in unbelievers. It is the imprint of anti-Christian thought on their lives and conduct. This mark is, therefore, not physical but spiritual. It manifests itself in the deeds of the flesh; it advocates war, both carnal and spiritual. It promotes famine, both physical and that of the Word of God. It leads to death and hell.
The false prophet rising from the earth is a lying spirit infiltrating the prestigious institutions of culture, education, science, media, and the arts (Revelation 13:11-12). We know full well education, science, and the arts are not innately evil. Christians began most of our schools, colleges, and universities. Science first examined our universe to know the glories of God. Some of the world’s most outstanding art came from the hearts and hands of believers. However, an education rooted in anti-Christian principles leads young people away from Christ. Science, grounded in anti-Christian presuppositions, directs people away from their Creator. The arts and media too often propagate lawless living, which leads society to perdition. The false prophet is active today and is the handmaid of government. It is not inconsequential that education, science, media, and the arts are so enamored with and supportive of the power of the anti-Christian government in our own nations.
This assessment of the beast and false prophet of Revelation 13 reflects a conviction regarding the government. National confession of Christ is a great need. In terms of the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:18, God commissions us to build a society and culture honoring Him. This mandate means governments should honor Jesus Christ. The beast and the false prophet are the antitheses to this position. Yes, nations owe allegiance to Christ. “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” (Revelation 15:3).