And I stood on the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns…
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy, etc. Fanciful interpretations of this chapter, as well as other portions of this book, are abundant. The last (see 'The Early Days of Christianity,' p. 452, by Archdeacon Farrar) seems to us not less unfounded and absurd than those that have gone before. Most of such interpretations assume that the comparatively few people who lived in Rome centuries ago were of such immense importance as to absorb the mind of the Infinite; that "papal Rome," as it is called, was the one great moral fee of creation, unmatched and matchless. But our method of treating this Book of Revelation, whether right or wrong, philosophic or foolish, ignores all fanciful interpretations, and seeks to turn even the dreams of old dreamers, like the prisoner on Patmos, and the prisoner in Bedford Gaol, to such a practical account as to serve the ethical interests of the men that are, and the men that are yet to be. Hence we use this chapter to throw light upon the domain of antichrist. But what do we mean by "antichrist"? Not an institution, ecclesiastical, political, or social, connected with any geographical spot or chronological period, but a moral state of mind pervading all places, and running through all times. Whatever state of mind is opposed to that moral state of mind which Christ incarnated, exemplified, and inculcated, I call antichrist. His state of mind was one of truth, reality; hence all falsehoods, shams, hypocrisies, are antichrist. His state of mind was one of supreme worship. He realized and reverenced the Eternal Father in all; hence all irreverence and idolatries are antichrist. His state of mind was a state of self-sacrificing philanthropy. He loved men, and gave himself for their benefit. He did not please himself. Hence all selfishness, worldliness, self seeking, is antichrist. St. John says, "Even now are there many antichrists." There are antichrists in Protestant churches and chapels, and in thousands of those who call themselves Christians. Some of the fiercest denouncers of popery as antichrist are those who have the most of popery and antichrist in their hearts. This chapter serves to illustrate some facts in connection with the domain of antichrist on this earth.
I. IT HAS A MANIFOLD DEVELOPMENT. The huge and monstrous forms that seem to pass before the imagination of the lonely prisoner on Patmos, as here recorded, are full of forms, grotesque, huge, and hideous. Here is a huge beast rising out of the sea, the scene of tumults. His power is great - he has "ten horns;" his intelligence is great - he has "seven heads;" his influence is great - he has "ten crowns [diadems]." In form "he was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion" (ver. 2). Then there is another beast "coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon" (ver. 11). He, like the former, is endowed with tremendous power, invested with extraordinary attributes, and is one in spirit and aim with the former, the beast that rises out of the realm of tumult, the sea. So that from the sea and from the land, the whole terraqueous globe, monstrous forms of evil appear in the domain of antichrist. What imagination can depict and what arithmetic could compute the hideous and monstrous forms in which antichrist appears in the world today? In the commerce of the world, in the governments of the world, in the campaigns of the world, in the literature of the world, in the religions of the world, in fact, in the social, industrial, and professional life of the world, antichrist appears in aspects as hideous and in a spirit as savage and blasphemous as the monsters depicted in this vision. Where in any part of the world do we not find antichrist in some form or another? Whatever the form it assumes, it is hideous and monstrous. What can be more monstrous than to find a human being rising and acting in opposition to him who is the all loving and all blessed, the Christ of God and the Saviour of the world? Concerning this domain of antichrist it is suggested that -
II. IT HAS ONE MASTER SPIRIT. The dragon is here represented as the presiding genius over all. "The dragon gave him his power, and his seat [throne], and great authority" (ver. 2). The presiding genius in this chapter and in the preceding one is called the dragon. Reason and analogy concur with the Bible in teaching that there is on this earth a great master spirit of evil, one that leads the world "captive at his will." He is, in spirit, character, and aim, against Christ. He is, in a pre-eminent sense, antichrist. There is nothing Christly about him, but otherwise. Satan is the enemy of Christ, the old serpent, the "prince of the power of the air," that "worketh in the children of disobedience." The record of this vision serves to illustrate several things concerning this master spirit of evil.
1. He is endowed with tremendous power. It is said of this dragon that "he doeth great wonders [signs], so that he maketh [should even make] fire come down from [out of] heaven;" that he works "by the means of miracles [signs]" (vers. 13, 14). The Jewish Scriptures speak of him as a being of tremendous energy, leading the world captive at his will, and even Christ who knew him seems to speak with deference concerning his extraordinary power.
2. His grand pursuit is moral mischief.
(1) He promotes blasphemy. "He opened his mouth in [for] blasphemy [blasphemies] against God, to blaspheme his Name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwelt in heaven" (ver. 6). His grand aim seems to be to bring the Infinite himself into contempt.
(2) He promotes deception. "And deceived them that dwell on the earth" (ver. 14). He is a liar and the father of lies. The first stone of his empire in the world was a lie, and by lies he has built it up and supports it. A life of wickedness is a life of delusion. All his followers walk in "a vain show."
(3) He promotes destruction. "It was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them" (ver. 7). Malignity is his inspiration. His battle is with the saints. He works to destroy goodness, and to destroy goodness is to destroy souls. He has no fight with fiends, but with saints.
3. His sphere is coextensive with the world. "He causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor," etc. (vers. 15-17). One of his prime ministers, or rather chief generals, came out of "the sea," and the other came up from "the earth." The whole terraqueous globe is the arena of this arch enemy of souls. He is the god of this world. Wherever falsehood, dishonesty, impurity, revenge are, there he is. And where are they not?
4. However great his influence, he is under a restraining law. An old writer has said, "He is limited in point of time; his reign is to continue forty and two months. He is also limited as to the persons and people that he shall entirely subject to his will and power; it will be only those whose 'names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.' Though the devil and antichrist might overcome their bodily strength and take away their natural life, they could never conquer their souls, nor prevail with them to forsake their Saviour and revolt to his enemies."
5. His mission will ultimately prove self ruinous. "He that leadeth into [if any man is for] captivity shall go into captivity [into captivity he goeth]" (ver. 10). Here is the principle of retribution attested by all human experience and philosophy, and felt to be just. "He that killeth [if any man shall kill] with the sword must be killed" (ver. 10). This applies to Satan; he brings men into captivity, and into captivity shall he one day go. Sin is suicide, wrong is self destructive. In every act the devil performs, he is forming a link in that adamantine chain that shall bind him, not merely for a thousand years, but forever. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.