SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)
Earth-picture of Antichristianity. (Rev_12:13 to Rev_13:18)
General.—The climax manifest in the development of Antichristianity on earth, is signalized by the names: the Dragon, Antichrist, and the False Prophet, added to which, as a sort of supplement, is the dominant Antichristian congregation, with its Antichristian symbols of fellowship.
At first, the Dragon has no conscious organs on earth; he does but vomit forth the water-floods, as will-less or unfree masses of peoples, against the Woman, to cause her to be carried away. Nor can he, after this attempt, at first do more than direct his temptations, in single demonic attacks, against individual believers or isolated communities.
Subsequently, however, he procures a conscious human organ: the Beast which rises out of the sea of national life, and in which he himself vanishes for a long time. In Antichristianity, which is at first a fellowship of Antichristian sympathies, but which finally becomes personal in geniuses of wickedness who attain their meridian in the Man of Sin, the Satanic essence is reflected in heightened potency. It appears as the consummate compound of all demonic and antitheocratic world-powers, or the four Danielic Beasts. The names of blasphemy, visible on its head, must, doubtless, be regarded as indirect blasphemies; it assumes many attributes of a blasphemous nature, e. g. absolute authority as a ruler and teacher, and the like. With these names are also connected the direct blasphemies which are providentially permitted him by the gift of the mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; aye, which must aid in the execution of judgment upon God-estranged Christendom. That, however, which is in the highest degree conducive to the dominion of Antichristianity, is the apparent perfect revival of it in its ungodly, worldly essence, after the mortal wound dealt to it by Christianity in one of its heads (in a special world-power).
Thus are the outward victory of the kingdom of darkness over the saints, and its temporary public rule over the nations, brought about; assuredly, under forms of subtile worldly refinement and by means of the sympathy of infatuated millions. Nor is the devil-worship which is established in the same manner to be regarded as a rude shamanism. The whole submission and homage of the nations arise from a cowardly recognition of the apparently invincible power of falsehood, hate and violence.
Violence exercised in the sphere of religion shall, however, meet its judgment; and the more consummate will be that judgment, the more thoroughly the faithful learn, themselves to abstain from all violence contrary to the dictates of conscience and the provisions of justice.
Antichristianity attains its full power, however, only through the medium of the False Prophet, who, at all events as such, proceeds from the Church in its external constitution. That he does not conduct the entire institution over to the hostile camp, is evident from the subsequent fact that the Harlot is killed by the Beast; nevertheless, he denotes the true essence of its worldly spirit, the turning-point, subsequent to the appearance of which the familiar relationship between the Woman and the Beast, in which the Beast was at first subservient to the Woman, changes its character, and the Woman is brought into subjection to the Beast. We are thus furnished with a picture of the most disgraceful apostasy, first appearing in back-sliding sympathies, next exhibited in prominent examples of defection, and finally reaching its climax in a perfect genius of perfidy.
The consummate hypocrite then establishes the consummate Antichristian congregation, which exhibits the complete counterpart of the true Church, in that it, like the true Church, has its wonders of revelation, its symbolic cultus, its symbolic marks, and its ban of excommunication. Its wonders of revelation, however, are delusions; its cultus is a worship of the Beast’s Image; its marks are brands of spiritual slavery; and its ban is more than the great ban—it is a social outlawry of the faithful.
The very mark, however, by which the Antichristian is to be recognized, presupposes the continuance of a quiet Church of God in this troublous time, for the benefit of whose members the mark is designed.
[Chap. 13.] The Beast and the False Prophet, or the relations, antipathies and sympathies between the secular and the spiritual Babylon.
[Rev_12:13.] The Satanic power, the woe-engendering spirit on earth. Also in the domain of the symbolic earth, the institution and order of Church and State.—The spirit of the kingdom of darkness, a spirit of persecution.
[Rev_13:14.] The safety of God’s Church on earth, ensured by the wildernesses of poverty and renunciation.—Holy dwellers in the wilderness: Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Christ.—Churches of the wilderness.—The blossoming wilderness.—Borne away on eagles’ wings from the persecutors of earth: 1. Israel; 2. The Christian Church; 3. All believing souls.—Preservation and nourishment of the Church even through times of sorest distress.
[Rev_13:15.] And the serpent cast out of his mouth, etc. The dragon now becomes a serpent, and again the serpent becomes a dragon.—The river [water as a river] in its symbolical import, in respect of its bright and its dark side.
[Rev_13:16.] The earth under the same aspects.—Historic dependence of the Church on the earth. Her apparent mergement in the earth. Her solicitude for the earth.
[Rev_13:17.] Isolated temptations [trials] of the true children of the Church and witnesses of Jesus. By isolated attacks, it is true, the power of faith is divided, but so, likewise, is the power of evil.—Satan seeks Christians. But for what reason?
[Rev_13:1.] The Beast out of the sea. His dark intent. His horrible and monstrous appearance. His business (the bringing into vogue of a worship of the Dragon, blasphemy against the Holy One and holy things, and the conquest of holy men [the saints]. His history. His success.—His blasphemy, (a) indirect, (b) direct. Against (1) the Name of God, (2) His Tabernacle, (3) them that dwell in Heaven (see Exeg. Notes).—The great world-monarchies depicted, as regards their bright side, in the human figure of Daniel 2.; as regards their dark side, in the bestial figures of Daniel 7.—Concentration of all ungodly and antigodly principles in the last Antichristian world-power.—The nature of the Wild-beast, nay, of consummate bestiality, in the semblance of, and with the claim to, consummate civilization. The Beast in the antithesis of (1) sensuality and blood-thirstiness; (2) stupidity and an absolute lack of appreciation of the Divine, and deviceful animal cunning; (3) a lust for prey and an impulse to destruction.—The Apocalyptic Beast, in its elegant, spotted body resembling the leopard; in its heavy and clumsy paws resembling the bear; in its heads, horns and crowns perfect monstrosity and deformity.—In what respect may we speak of a conquest of the saints by the Beast, and in what respect is the expression an improper one?—Universalism, or the international power of Antichristianity.—Devil-worship in its gross, subtile and extra-subtile forms.—The heavenly Book of Life.—Watchword of the Church of God under the persecutions of this world (Rev_13:10).
[Rev_13:11-17.] The False Prophet: 1. His types in Holy Writ; 2. His examples in Church History; 3. His fundamental traits at all times.—Apostasy is a twofold hypocrisy, just as hypocrisy is a twofold apostasy (perfidy at once toward Heaven and hell).—Hypocrisy, the mother of apostasy.—Perfidy, or specific depravity, the brand of apostasy.—Distinction between sinners who are only wicked [Böse] and those who are depraved [Schlechte].—Satan, because he finds his tools in the depraved, calumniates all men as depraved, but in this presupposition he is put to shame (see Job; Zechariah 3; Matthew 4).—All tyrants are put to shame when they make the assumption that humanity is rotten and depraved at the core.—God has placed a rock in the midst of the way of worldly history upon which all godlessness must be confounded.—The mock character and work of the apostate. His mock-holiness (like the Lamb); his mock-miracles; his mock-cultus; his mock-church.—Horrid picture of the church of Satan.—Horrible opposites in the nature of evil: in the nature of the Beast; in the nature of the False Prophet; in the nature of the Antichristian community.—Outlawry of believers in the time of the perfect dominion of unbelief: (1) subtile; (2) universal.
[Rev_13:18.] The mysterious number. Taken as a riddle, it is infinitely obscure (the most diverse interpretations of it have been given). Taken as a symbol, it is clear enough. The Antichristian signature of a life full of endless, vain and frustrated plots, toils, malignities and intrigues.—The mysterious description of the Beast, a great warning for faith—not a great problem for curious investigation.—The grand combinations of the hellish spirit are always confounded by reason of one mistake in his calculation: 1. He holds all to be as depraved as himself; 2. He says: there is no God (Psa_14:1), and he regards the holy and excellent ones that are on earth (Psa_16:3) as chimeras.
Starke, Cramer: God has many ways and means of preserving His Church, and can quickly give her wings, that she may easily escape the malice of tyrants—for the Church is to endure forever.—However long or short a space the tribulation of God’s faithful ones is to continue, God has beforehand decreed and meted it out.
Rev_13:16 (Psa_124:1-5). This style of expression is drawn from the natural shutting up of waters in the earth (Psa_93:3-4).—Quesnel: No one who is of the true seed of the Church escapes the temptation and persecution of Satan (2Ti_3:11-12).—A worldly kingdom is called a Beast because its government is often conducted with bestial irrationality, tyranny, unrighteous violence and brutish lusts (Dan_7:4; Dan_7:23).—Worldly kingdoms are subject to many and great vicissitudes, for God setteth up and removeth kings (Dan_2:21; Dan_5:25-28).—As lions are of great courage, and very strong and cruel, so the kings of Assyria and Babylon were very haughty, powerful and cruel. As bears are indeed very fierce, and yet have something in common with men, in that they eat all sorts of food, and are especially fond of honey, and can be tamed so that they will dance to our music, so certain kings of Persia were very cruel, whilst others, again, were very amiable toward the people of God. As leopards are spotted, wily and swift, thus was the Grecian monarchy (Rev_13:2).—The Spirit of God speaks in His children, the spirit of the devil speaks, likewise, in his members.—The multitude and high position of those who profess a false religion do not convert error into truth.—The patience of believers in their affliction is their great crown.—The shape of a lamb and the heart of a dragon.—As the Egyptian sorcerers counterfeited some miracles, etc.—False religions are set up by violence and cruelty; the Gospel, by humility and patience. We should bear in our bodies the mark of Christ, but not that of the beast (Gal_6:17).—The Antichrist practices two kinds of violence; he deprives true believers of life and (or) of freedom, which is as dear as life.—As the Beast is not some individual person, but a fellowship of men, so the name of the Beast cannot be the name of a prince, etc. The name Adonikam would be quite suitable for Antichrist (Ezr_2:13, etc.), since there were 666 of the family of Adonikam that returned out of captivity to their own land. (It is doubtless from this source, or from the still earlier one of Vitringa, that Hengstenberg derived his explanation.)—True wisdom consists in knowing how to distinguish the Spirit of God from the spirit of darkness.
Læmmert, Babel, das Thier und der falsche Prophet (see p. 74): Rev_13:1-7. After John has seen the pure Church of God and the Dragon which persecutes her, he is made to behold the Beast out of the sea, the Dragon’s representative on earth. This connection obliges us to revert to Revelation 12.
H. W. Rinck, Die Lehre der Heiligen Schrift vom Antichrist (see p. 73): Interesting communications and dissertations on the subject of the spiritists [Spiritisten]. The False Prophet is here regarded as the representative of false science, and is distinguished and separated from the great Harlot Babylon.