Revelation 13

Sermon preached on March 1, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Shortly after World War I Lawrence of Arabia took some of his Middle Eastern friends with him to visit Paris. They were not sophisticated as they had never been out of the desert before. When they arrived in Paris he showed them some of the great landmarks of the city. He showed them the Louvre, the Arch of the Triumph, Napoleon's tomb, etc. But they found little of interest in those things. The thing that really interested them was the faucet in the bathtub in the hotel room. They spent much time there turning it on and off. They thought that it was wonderful. All they had to do was turn the handle and they could get as much water as they wanted. Sometime later, when it was time for them to leave Paris for the East, Lawrence found them in the bathroom with wrenches trying to detach the faucet. They said,

"It is very dry in Arabia. What we need are faucets. If we have them, we will have all the water we want."

Lawrence had to explain to them that the effectiveness of the faucets did not lie in the faucets themselves but in the immense system of water works to which they were attached. He had to point out to them that behind this lay the rain and the snowfall on the Alps. (From, 'Philippians' by James Boice. p. 57)

On their own, the faucets can't do anything. Their power depends totally on the water. If you take the water away the faucets are powerless.

That illustration shows us something of what the power of our enemy is like. A superficial reading of chapter 13 will tell you that it's unbelievably great. But if you look deeper you will see that he has no power of his own at all. This is what we're going to look at this morning. This is a truth that if we take it to heart—we will be able to act like David standing before Goliath. If we really understood this truth and applied it to our hearts—we would never give in to persecution. If we really believed this truth—we would be like the psalmist in Psalm 46 who declared, (verses 1-2)

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,"

We would be able to proclaim with him, (verses 8-11)

"Come and see the works of the Lord,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.'
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.'
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress."

That's the kind of faith we need to have. We need to be like Daniel, unafraid to face the lions. We need to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, full of courage before the fiery furnace.

The only way to do that is to have a good understanding of God's power and might.

As paradoxical as it may seem, Revelation 13 should help us have that kind of faith. Revelation 13 is one of the darkest chapters in the Bible. The last verse of chapter 12 actually sets the stage. It says, (verse 17)

"Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off
to make war against the rest of her offspring—
those who obey God's commandments
and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

The dragon inflicts great harm on the church through the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth. But what is made clear in our text is that the power they have is a derived power. They don't have power in themselves. Revelation 13 tells us that this false trinity consisting of the devil, the antichrist and the false prophet have no real power of their own.

Consider first of all, the beast out of sea, also known as the antichrist.

In verse 2 we are told that the beast out of the sea resembled a leopard, had feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion. It then says,

"The dragon gave the beast his power
and his throne and great authority."

The first beast doesn't have power in himself. It is given to him by the dragon. Verse 5 tells us that this beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise authority. In verse 7 we read that he,

"was given power to make war
against the saints and to conquer them.
And he was given authority over every
tribe, people, language and nation."

The power and the authority he exercises were both given to him. He was given power to make war on the saints and to conquer them. He was given authority over the nations. This power was given to him. He has no power of his own at all.

Secondly, consider the beast out of the earth, the false prophet.

The beast out of the earth, also known as the false prophet, also inflicts great harm on the church. Verse 14 tells us that he was given power to do great signs on behalf of the first beast. Verse 12 reveals that the authority he exercises is the authority of the first beast. You'll recall that the first beast's authority came from the dragon. So the authority he wields is a derived authority, twice derived. Verse 15 tells us that

"He was given power to give breath
to the image of the first beast,
so that it could speak and cause all who refused
to worship the image to be killed."

He was given power to do that. His power is derived. It does not reside in him. It comes from somewhere else.

Neither of the two beasts have power in themselves. Their power comes from Satan.

But there's even more to it.

The same is true of Satan.

He has no power on his own. His power is a derived power. This is shown from the fact that

he can't control the time that he has to war against the church.

We see this from verse 5 which states that he gives the beast out of the sea power to exercise authority for 42 months. It's a limited amount of time. I believe that it refers to the time from Christ's death and resurrection to His coming again. But it's a limited period of time. For Satan it's a time that is far too short. Revelation 12:12 tells us about Satan being cast to earth after the war in heaven, that he lost. It says,

"But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury, because
he knows that his time is short."

His time for conducting war against is far too short for him. But he's bound to it. He can't extend the conflict.

During the last stage of World War II the allies were closing in on Hitler and the Nazis. The Americans, the British and the Canadians were advancing across western Germany while the Russians were closing in on Berlin. Hitler knew that he wasn't getting out alive. He was so disappointed. He had all these plans—plans to kill more Jews, plans to unleash more V-2's on Britain, plans to destroy the Russians. He had plans for a 1000 year Reich. But his time had run out. Time was his enemy. He couldn't control it. When his time ran out he was powerless.

That's the way it is with Satan. He gives authority to the beast out of the sea for 42 months, for a definite period of time. The reason Satan gave the beast authority for only 42 months was because that's all he was allowed to give. Ultimately it's wasn't Satan's choice. His power is limited. His power is a derived power. G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation: NIGTC, p. 695)

"Only God, not the devil, sets times and seasons. The devil would never want to limit his work against God's kingdom to a mere 'three and a half years'."

Satan is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short. He doesn't control time. He can only fight against the church during the specific time that God has given him.

But that's not the worst of it for Satan. The second thing in chapter 13 that shows that his power is a derived power is the fact that

he's going to lose the war.

Verse 8 shows us that Satan can't do anything to thwart God's plans. It tells us that only a specific number will worship the beast out of the sea. It says,

"All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—
all whose names have not been written in the book of life
belonging to the Lamb that was slain
from the creation of the world."

One of the specific goals of God's great endeavor has been to save His people—the ones He chose before the foundation of the world. They do not worship the beast. Those who worship him are those whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life. God is the One who has chosen His people and who will keep them to the end. God's people remain faithful to Him and not worship the beast.

Even though Revelation 13 is full of persecution for the church and a way out of the darkness seems impossible to human eyes—this chapter tells us over and over again that God is in absolute control. God is allowing all this. Even more than that, He is the One giving the power to these evil powers, to accomplish His will. All three of these, this counterfeit trinity, they have no power in themselves. Unbelievers don't realize that. In verse 4 they worship the dragon. They also worship the beast and ask,

"Who is like the beast?
Who can make war against him?"

Revelation 19 provides the answer. It describes a great battle. John writes, (verses 19–20)

"Then I saw the beast and
the kings of the earth and their armies
gathered together to make war against
the rider on the horse and his army.
But the beast was captured,
and with him the false prophet
who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.
With these signs he had deluded those
who had received the mark of the beast
and worshiped his image.
The two of them were thrown alive
into the fiery lake of burning sulfur."

They make war against God and they lose. Their fate is sealed. They are going to be cast into the lake of fire.

The same fate awaits Satan. Revelation 20:7f tells us about the great battle of Gog and Magog, how Satan deceived the nations and with his army, which was like the sand on the seashore, marched across the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people. But what happened? We read, (Revelation 20:9–10)

"But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
And the devil, who deceived them,
was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur,
where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.
They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

Where will all their power be on that day? It will be shown for what it always was—a derived power. On that day it will be clear that they are totally powerless. All the supposed power that they had was a derived power.

This is an important point. Their power comes from elsewhere. They are not omnipotent or all powerful. Far from it. God is the Almighty One, the One who is all powerful. God is the One from whom all others derive their power.

The power of Satan, the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth—their power is like human power—it comes from somewhere else. It doesn't reside in them. Ancient Rome seemed powerful. Pilate, Rome's representative, had thousands of troops under him. But you remember his conversation with Jesus. At one point Pilate asked Jesus a question and Jesus did not answer. Pilate said to him, (John 19:10)

"Do you refuse to speak to me?
Don't you realize I have power
either to free you or to crucify you?"

Pilate is boasting in his power and declaring it to Jesus. Jesus answered, (verse 11)

"You would have no power over me
if it were not given to you from above."

Pilate received all his power from God. Without it, Pilate would have had no power at all. None.

Jesus didn't have to be afraid of Pilate. What Pilate was doing with is power was all part of God's plan for the salvation of His people. Peter spoke about this in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Peter said to the men of Israel, (Acts 2:22–23)

"Men of Israel, listen to this:
Jesus of Nazareth was a man
accredited by God to you by miracles,
wonders and signs, which
God did among you through him,
as you yourselves know.
This man was handed over to you
by God's set purpose and foreknowledge;
and you, with the help of wicked men,
put him to death by nailing him to the cross."

It was all in God's control. So too are our lives. Verse 10 makes that clear. (Revelation 13:10)

"If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword he will be killed.
This calls for patient endurance and
faithfulness on the part of the saints."

This is describing God's decree about some of His people and their lives. Our lives are in God's hands. As David said in Psalms 139:16,

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

There are three lessons from this.

First, for Christians,

if your enemy has no power of his own, you don't have to fear him, you don't have to give into him.

David knew that God controlled all things, that Goliath had no power of his own, that all his supposed power was nothing—and so he could stand boldly for God. That's what we are to do as well. Psalm 66:3 tells us to,

"Say to God, 'How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that
your enemies cringe before you."

Secondly, this means that you should have confidence in your Great Shepherd, Jesus, even when things are difficult for you.

We don't understand God's ways. They are mysterious to us. Everything is being worked out by our Good Shepherd according to His wonderful plan. Richard Baxter says to Christians, (A Christian Directory 1:43, Quoted from Voices from the Past, Jan. 1 Reading, If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31)

"Do not be discouraged at the difficulties and oppositions that will rise up before you when you begin resolvedly to walk with God. Discouragements turn multitudes from religion, and provide a great temptation for many young beginners to turn back. Israel in the wilderness was ready to retreat to Egypt. God himself will have his servants and his graces tried and exercised by difficulties, and Satan will quickly raise up storms before you, as soon as you are set out to sea. But God is on your side and has all your enemies in his hand, and can rebuke them, or destroy them in a moment. O what is the breath or fury of dust or devils, against the Lord Almighty! In the day you entered into a covenant with God, and he with you, you entered into the most impregnable rock and fortress, and covered yourself in a castle of defense, where you may (modestly) defy all adverse powers of earth or hell. If God cannot save you, he is not God. And if he will not save you, he must break his covenant. Indeed, he may resolve to save you, not from affliction and persecution, but in it, and by it. But in all these things you will 'overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved us' (Rom. 8:37)… If all of the world were on your side, you might yet have cause to fear. But to have God on your side is infinitely more. Christ the Captain of your salvation has gone this way before you, and now he is engaged to make you a conqueror. Do not be afraid where Christ is leading the way. Do not draw back when you see his steps and his blood."

Thirdly, this means that our hope should be in the life to come, not in this life.

This world is not our home. We are pilgrims and strangers here. John Calvin writes, (Institutes, 2.15.4)

"Thus it is that we may patiently pass through his life with its misery, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles—content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph."

Lastly, if you're not a Christian, what you should see from this passage is that this unholy trinity—the devil, the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth—

they don't love you, but seek to destroy you.

They deceive. They oppress. They kill. It's all to destroy men and women. The people who follow them will surely perish. In Revelation 14:9-11 we read,

"A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice:
'If anyone worships the beast and his image
and receives his mark on the forehead
or on the hand, he, too, will drink of
the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength
into the cup of his wrath.
He will be tormented with
burning sulfur in the presence of the
holy angels and of the Lamb.
And the smoke of their torment
rises for ever and ever.
There is no rest day or night
for those who worship the beast
and his image, or for anyone
who receives the mark of his name."

Why would you choose that? Go to Jesus. He's the One who can deliver you.