so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark--the name of the beast or the number of its name.
The Book of Revelation presents us with a view of the conflict between the varied kingdoms of this world and the undivided kingdom of our God and of his Christ, and it uniformly declares to us this one consolatory truth, that these kingdoms shall become submissive to his kingdom. These kingdoms present themselves in the great world drama as various powers standing more or less in active opposition to the dominion of Christ over the life of men - in opposition to truth, to righteousness, and to God. "Another beast" arises, not from the sea, but "coming up out of the earth;" not from the world, in its heaving, disordered, tumultuous state, but from the solid earth - from the world in its settled order. It is not the power of rude violence, but as it were of meekness. "He had two horns like unto a lamb" - a smaller measure of power than pertains to the true Lamb, and smaller than is found on the seven-headed beast. But the character is complex. The speech is "as a dragon." It is foul, hellish, Satanic. He doeth great signs. "He deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs." The beast is distinguished by speech. This may indicate a connection with the intellectual and moral, not the physical or even the political, world. Is it a representation of the vast intellectual powers of the world if, and when, inspired by the evil spirit? Is it "wisdom" - the wisdom of this world in its opposition to the wisdom that cometh down from above? It has elements of the world, for it is of the beast; it has elements of the fiend, for it partakes of the quality of the dragon; it is a spirit of error, for it is a false prophet. But it is not merely error, for it is animated by an evil spirit. It is worldly wisdom, the tongue set on fire of hell - the human mind in its opposition to God. "Intellectual weapons which have united with external violence to attack the new principle which had begun to manifest itself in the life of mankind" (Neander). "He doeth great wonders" (see Matthew 24:24
). Here are all "signs and Dying wonders," by which men are deceived who cleave not to the truth. Perhaps visible signs, prestiges, prodigies, wonders, soothsayers, witchcraft, and fraud of a barbarous age; and then, as times change, the pretended wonders of the intellect. "It would seem like a new heathendom sinking down again to the deification of nature and humanity." It maketh an image. Often in heathen Roman times was the image of the beast set up, and the alternative lay between martyrdom and apostasy. But not only in imperial Roman times, or papal or Protestant persecuting times, but in times of proud philosophical, materialistic, atheistic, earthly wisdom that stands in opposition to God; and that is none the less exclusive towards men that accept it not. Proud, anti-Godlike, anti-Christlike wisdom persecutes to the death. The profession of the simple Christian faith is a sign for exclusion and proscription. Intellectual pride laughs in its sleeve at the simplicity of Christ. Here the Church is to learn -
I. THE EXCEEDINGLY VARIED CHARACTER OF THE ENEMIES OF THE TRUTH. Every spirit not of God will oppose the true.
II. THE NECESSITY FOR WATCHFULNESS AGAINST THE MOST SPECIOUS OPPONENTS.
III. THE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CHARACTER OF EVERY SPIRIT THAT IS OF THE EARTH, OR THAT PARTAKES OF THE NATURE OF THE BEAST.
IV. THE NECESSITY FOR PURITY, FIDELITY, AND PATIENCE. Purity
(1) of doctrine, and
(2) of life.
(1) to the Word, and
(2) to convictions, and
(3) to the indications of Divine providence.
(1) in maintaining the reproach and profession of Christ, and
(2) in enduring the severities of rude persecution or the proud rejection of a self-wise world. - R.G.
He causeth all... to receive a mark.
The words "he causeth" clearly ascribe this operation to the second beast. If it had been the first we might imagine that some outward mark or sign was meant, for that beast deals with the visible and outward. But this one stamps an image on the souls of men; this writes a name on all their inward thoughts, which afterwards expresses itself in their common daily acts. Men fancy, when they read and talk of some great tyrant-power which has established itself in their country or their age, that they are reading and talking of something which is far off from them. They can comment upon it, measure its effects, calculate the chances of its continuance or of its fall. If any complain of it as bad in its origin or immoral in its practices, wise persons will whisper, "But it does not hurt you. You can buy and sell happily under the shadow of it. Your gains are not seriously lessened. You incur no great risks of loss." And all the time these wise persons are not aware that they themselves, as well as those with whom they are conversing, have received the mark of this power on their foreheads and their right hands; that the image of it is graven in their hearts; that they are showing in these very discourses of theirs that they bear the name and character of that which they are excusing.
The question that I want to ask is this, Whoever the beast is, what makes him a beast? What is the bestial element in him, whoever he be? And the answer is not far to find, Godless selfishness, that is "the mark of the beast." Wherever a human nature is self-centred, God forgetting, and therefore God-opposing (for whoever forgets God defies Him), that nature has gone down below humanity, and has touched the lower level of the brutes. Men are so made as that they must either rise to the level of God, or certainly go down to the level of the brute. And wherever you get men living by their own fancies, for their own pleasure, in forgetfulness and neglect of the sweet and mystic bonds that should knit them to God, there you get "the image of the beast and the number of his name." And besides that godless selfishness, we may point to simple animalism as literally the mark of the beast. He who lives not by conscience and by faith, but by fleshly inclination and sense, lowers himself to the level of the instinctive brute-life, and beneath it, because he refuses to obey faculties which they do not possess, and what is nature in them is degradation in us. Look at the unblushing sensuality which marks many "respectable people" nowadays. Look at the foul fleshliness of much of popular art and poetry. Look at the way in which pure animal passion, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the love of good things to eat and plenty to drink is swaying and destroying men and women by the thousand among us. Look at the temptations that lie along every street in Manchester for every young man after dusk. Look at the thin veneer of culture over the ugliest lust. Scratch the gentleman and you find the satyr. Is it much of an exaggeration, in view of the facts of English life to-day, to say that all the world wanders after and worships this beast?
It is indeed remarkable that the seer should speak at all of "the number" of the name of the beast. Why not be content with the name itself?
1. St. John may not himself have known the name. He may have been acquainted only with the character of the beast, and with the fact, too often overlooked by inquirers, that to that character its name, when made known, must correspond. No reader of St. John's writings can have failed to notice that to him the word "nam" is far more than a mere appellative. It expresses the inner nature of the person to whom it is applied. No man could know the new name written upon the white stone given to him that overcometh "but he that receiveth it." In other words, no one but a Christian indeed could have that Christian experience which would enable him to understand the "new name." In like manner now, St. John may have felt that it was not possible for the followers of Christ to know the name of antichrist. But this need not hinder him from giving the number. The "number" spoke only of general character and fate; and knowledge of it did not imply, like knowledge of the "name," communion of spirit with him to whom the name belonged.
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