…These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. … Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. (Daniel 7:16-27.)
The Two Characters of Evil: Ecclesiastical Apostasy, and Civil Apostasy – Summary by Sosthenes
The angel gave Daniel the interpretation of the vision of the beasts, but the principal subject of Daniel 7 is the beast who exalts and elevates himself against the most high God.
There are two characters in the evil which manifests itself on the earth:
- Ecclesiastical apostasy, that of the Church
- Civil apostasy, that of human government and organisation
[These colours will be used to make it easier to follow which relates to which – Sosthenes]
The apostasy of the church has in principle already taken place. There will be more open manifestations of it later.
The civil power will rise against Christ, whom God will establish King over the earth, because all government belongs to Him. He will be Judge,but this is not the last or general judgment.
Everybody existing on the earth at the end of the times will be either subject to Christ, and therefore saved and sent to life eternal, or in rebellion and condemned to eternal punishment. This is the judgment of the quick, the nations on the earth, not of the dead. “Before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:32). The judgment of the living is as certain as that of the dead
Ecclesiastical Wickedness is always the Worst
The ecclesiastical power, will no longer be wielding the secular arm, riding on the beast, and ruling it. It will take on a more mysterious and dangerous form. Its occult influence continues, deprived of its outward splendour. The church’s revolt begins when, instead of being subject to Christ, it gives itself over to the will and power of man, leans upon man for aid, and renounces truth to follow error. When the church is not guided by the Holy Spirit, and is not subject to Christ, Christendom becomes completely apostate.
Because the ecclesiastical power, is no longer a political power deposing kings, there is a temptation to suppose that it has disappeared. However, its moral influence survives. Its influence urges the civil power to revolt against God. This will lead to its ultimate destruction.
Men lift themselves up in pride, and combine against God, and so prepare the way for the son of perdition.
Civil apostasy will have its time of manifestation
Scripture tells us that all civil power is of God. Now, in the same way that the church rebels against God, civil government will be found in a state of revolt and apostasy. Instead of confessing allegiance to God, the source of its authority, it sets itself up against Him.
At the end of the present dispensation, the civil power will be found in this same state of revolt as the church. In the civil power apostasy will be more manifest and prominent than it is in the church. This will take place in the bosom of Christendom; and ecclesiastical wickedness will be its motivating power.
Those who will have revolted ought to have instructed the church and represented the wisdom of God, reminding governments of their duty towards God. They will conceal the truth, seduce the world, and lead the civil power to depart from God.
What do we find at Armageddon? A false prophet who falls there along with the beast. From the beginning to the end, there is always a beast, and with the beast a false prophet. It is the one or the other who guides the rebellion. But at the end the beast takes the lead, as being able to act more directly and freely: thus it is the beast that becomes the direct object of judgment.
Relationship with the Jews
The beast, or the civil power of the fourth monarchy, sets himself in revolt against God. But this monarchy will establish a relationship with the Jews. This re-introduces the history of God’s people.
The unconverted Jews will have returned to their own land, though without being. However, there will be saints among them. The Jews will find themselves in a relatuonship with the fourth beast who exalts himself against God, putting himself in direct opposition to Christ, the King of the Jews.
Christ will then exercise His rights as King of the Jews. He will come down from heaven, destroy the beast together with the Antichrist.
Persecution of the Jews
If we consider the history of the beast in a general manner, both in its pagan form under the Roman emperors such as Tiberias Caesar, or later, in the form of the corrupted Christianity of the Middle Ages, we see there have always been persecutions against the saints. “And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth,” (Rev. 18:24).
As prophecy is fulfilled and the civil power openly revolts, persecutions fall on the Jews. As soon as the rights of Christ, as King of the Jews, are affected, the Jews appear on the scene; for the Jews are God’s earthly people. Of course, the church will be entirely out of the scene at the time of these persecutions.
The Woman and the Beast
We get the woman clothed with scarlet, a power whose principal element is ecclesiastical. She is mounted on the beast (civil power). After that, “the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore [ecclesiastical power], and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their [the ten kings’] hearts to . . . give their kingdom to the beast.” (Revelation 17:12-18)
The Limitation of Satan’s Power
The word of God puts in contrast the world and the Father, flesh and Spirit, Satan and the Son of God. Satan desires to destroy Christ, the One who is to govern all nations with a rod of iron, and, and in destroying Christ, destroy the church.
Satan has no power over our consciences if we have understood the value of the blood of Christ; but he is still in heaven, accusing the children of God. There will be a battle in heaven. Satan will be cast down from heaven, but will not yet be chained to the bottomless pit. The fruits of his wickedness will not yet have found their limit; so it is said, “the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” (Revelation 12:12)
Satan, having been cast down to the earth, will act through the agency of the Roman Empire. This is the terrestrial agency. The authority of the dragon (Satan) becomes established in the Roman Empire. It is seen in the beast with seven heads and ten horns.
The False Prophet
There is also another beast (not the Roman Empire) which exercises all the power of the first beast before him.
“I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; . .And he doeth great wonders, …, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth” (Revelation 13:11-14). This has the appearance of Christ’s power, but it is Satan’s. This second beast, as the false prophet, will seduce the inhabitants of the earth, and who will cause them to follow the first beast, that is the civil power of the Roman Empire.
“And I saw one of the heads, as it were wounded to death.” (Revelation 13:3). Although the imperial form of the Roman Empire collapsed centuries ago, the wound is to be entirely healed. And all the earth will wonder.
The Mystery of the Woman and the Beast
“I will tell thee the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”
This is what will happen when Satan, having been cast out of heaven, will come down to the earth in great wrath. Then, under his influence the beast (the Roman Empire, the civil power) will resume his strength and form. Instead of being in submission to God, it will take on the character of Satan in open revolt against the power of God. Instead of replacing it, ten kings “shall give their strength and power unto the beast“. (Revelation 17:13)
There will be an imperial head – an emperor, and ten kings, who will give him their power; the kingdoms will continue in existence, but there will be a confederation of them.
One king is yet to come; and when he comes, he will last a very short while. He will re-unite all the power of the beast. In essence this will be the beast himself, the imperial head under a new form. After dealing in an idolatrous and apostate way in Jerusalem, he will find his end with that first beast. Thus he will go down to destruction.
A Word to the Believer
Paul had evidently spoken a good deal about these things to the church of the Thessalonians, and had taught them to expect the Lord’s coming. Now, what did Satan do? He tried to terrify them, by telling them that the day of the Lord had already arrived. So Paul says “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind“ (2 Thessalonians 2:1)
Those who love the truth will not be deceived by this. They will be caught up into the air. The false prophet, which is the second beast, will be thrown into the lake of fire along with the first. Then all those who have “not received the love of the truth” (2:Thessalonians 2:10) will be delivered to the judgment of God. It is to this that the world ought to be warned.
When Israel was owned of God as His people publicly, some nations were in league against them. The Jews were carried into captivity, and this started the times of the Gentiles. The kingdom was transferred from the Jews to the four beasts. Daniel speaks of the four beasts only; Ezekiel speaks of the nations before and after the four beasts; but never of “the times of the Gentiles,” so called.
The history of Christianity takes place during the of these four beasts that comes. At the same time there is moral rebellion. The ecclesiastical power assumes the place of God. It takes away faith, putting aside natural religion, corrupting and perverting the revelation of God, so that men should have no other objects than themselves.
However, the ecclesiastical power will itself fall a victim to the violence of the human will, insubject to God; and by its pretensions to religion, openly serve Satan. It will provoke crimes which it dares not consummate itself; the civil power will be the active chief and executor.
The corruption of the church – that which is most excellent – is the worst of all corruptions. The Antichrist will deny that Jesus is the Christ; he will “deny the Father and the Son” (John 2:22);
Satan will work directly by him. It will be a sort of satanic imitation of what God has done.
- The Father has given the throne to the Son; the dragon (Satan) will confer the throne on the beast.
- The Spirit acts in the church, according to the power of the Son before Him; the second beast (spiritual power, Antichrist, and false prophet) exercises all the power of this last beast (civil power) before him.
See Rev. 13:12. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
This is consummation of Adam’s wickedness as Adam in his first sin – the fall. By contrast, our beloved and perfect Saviour made expiation for us.
May God make us attentive both to the character and the end of man’s pride! May God’s name of grace and glory be eternally blessed; and may He engrave these things upon our hearts! Certainly He will preserve His church from all these evils which menace the world for His church is united to Him.