I want to discuss the Beast and the Great Tribulation by starting with Daniel 7.
In chapter 7: 1-15 Daniel sees a vision of four beasts with various characteristics. The fourth and final one being terrifying, dreadful, and exceedingly strong. This beast overcame all the others.
Yet, in verse 9, we see that the Ancient of Days (God), took His seat, pronounced judgement on this beast, it was killed and its body turned over to be burned. The dominion was also taken away from all the other beasts.
Verses 13 and 14 show that the Ancient of Days gave dominion to "one like a son of man", that everyone would serve Him, and His dominion will never be taken away.
So a quick interpretation: here on the earth, worldly kings will rise and fall. One king will overtake another. Governments will grow in strength, handing over their power one to the next until a final earthly king who is exceedingly strong will have dominion over all the earth. This king it says elsewhere will even prevail against the saints, but God comes, takes His seat, pronounces judgement, destroys the enemy, and hands us the victory.
So lets unpack that and I'll show you how I got there. Lets start with a discussion of the enemy over whom we'll eventually have victory.
Interpretation of the Beasts
Daniel had the vision of chapter 7 interpreted for him by an angel starting in verse 15. The angel plainly tells him in vs 17 that:
These four great beasts are four great kings that will arise out of the earth.The beast is symbolic of earthly kingdoms, or earthly governments. More pointedly: governments of men. The number 666 that we see in Revelation 13:18 is interpreted for us as the number of a man. In Daniel 7:8, it says the fourth beast has the "eyes of a man".
The Counterfeit Messiah
The beasts of Daniel and Revelation are human based earthly governments. Further, they are a counterfeit Messiah. The lost, who have been deceived because they see with their eyes rather than with eyes of faith, can only put their trust in that which they see. They cannot see God. But they can see government. They can see kings. So they ask the king to care for them, to protect them, to provide for them. They ask earthly kings for that which they should be asking of Christ - namely, salvation.
The Israelites asked Samuel for a king (1 Samuel 8:6). At the time they were completely free. God had merely placed judges in their land to resolve disputes. But they were not ruled by the Judges, God Himself was their only King. When Israel pressed Samuel for a king, God said that it was a rejection of Him (vs 7). He also warned them that a king would cost them their freedom and their wealth (vs 11-18). An an aside, America was the first nation on earth founded deliberately on the notion that human beings should be free, and that when too much authority is given to government, it will consume the people. The founders of this nation purposely tried to limit government, but warned posterity that only through their personal relationships with God would they be able to keep it limited.
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other (John Adams)But many people, those who have no love or trust for God, want a king/government they can see, and are willing to give all that they have to get the security that they believe a king will provide. Unfortunately, what they will receive instead is the ultimate insecurity.
We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security. (Dwight Eisenhower)Human history is a story of allegiance. A story of our choice, made as individuals and collectively, about whom we will follow, love, and serve.
It is human choice that empowers either the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Hell. Jesus said in Luke 17:21 that "The Kingdom of God is within you." Simply put - the Word of God shapes us from the inside out. When Jesus "comes to live in our hearts" it means that we believe the Word in our hearts (Rom 10:8) and are changed on the inside. That change starts to take effect in the things we do and say. The things that we do and say shape our environment and our relationships. Rejecting the Word of God has the opposite, but same kind of effect. Individuals produce in the world around them either the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Hell by what they agree with and act upon.
Taken together (those that believe and those that reject the Word of God), our beliefs shape the entire world. The world we live in is a product of what its inhabitants believe - a product of what every human being, taken as a whole, says and does.
The Great Tribulation
The Great Tribulation is the final playing out of the misplacement of human allegiance. It is the final culmination of human trust in a physical government rather than a trust in God.
Revelation 13 has many parallels to Daniel 7. Revelation 13:3-4 says that humanity "marveled as they followed the beast." God has given each human being the freedom to choose. That freedom gives us authority. Trusting in man gives that authority over to Satan.
It is the dragon that gives the beast power. Revelation 13:4 says:
And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who can fight against, it?When mankind trusts government instead of God, they empower the dragon (who is Satan, as interpreted in Rev 20:2). One government may rise and be replaced by another - we see this clearly in Daniel 7 in the four beasts described there. But the authority given away by each individual to the beast (when they trust man rather than God) strengthens the dragon.
Generation after generation of empowering the dragon led to his eventual "release" (Rev 20:3). It has always been the aim of the dragon to control the entire earth through a centralized government. Every "great" ruler throughout world history has attempted to increase the size of their Kingdoms. Even our movies and various stories reveal that the villains' goal was always to "rule the world!"
Fully aware of the threat imposed by that possibility, God decentralized human government when he confused the languages at the Tower of Babel. He said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them." (Gen 11:6) The lost have been trying to centralize it again ever since.
The Great Tribulation is the accomplishment of that perpetual goal of the enemy - total centralization. At that time, the people of the world will have utterly surrendered over their lives, their freedom, their hope, their wealth, and their potential to one final earthly all-powerful government. And they will have done so willingly in their vain search for security. Once that occurs there will be no human power capable of stopping the dragon and the beast. Anything the enemy chooses to do during the Great Tribulation is possible to him. During that time the enemy will have total and complete control over human beings on the earth. You won't even be able to buy or sell anything unless you are part of his system (Rev 13:7).
In the Great Tribulation the enemy will prevail even against the saints:
As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them (Daniel 7:21)
It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. (Revelation 13:7)
And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them (Rev 11:7)
And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. (Daniel 8:23-24)
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short...29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:21-30)But God will end the Great Tribulation and the suffering of the saints by His coming. Don't forget Daniel 7 (reviewed at the start of this article) - God pronounces judgement on the beast and destroys his work with His coming and all dominion is given to the Son of Man. So while there will be a time of great suffering on the earth for the saints due to the world's love for and empowerment of the dragon and the beast, this will be cut short and we will be handed the victory. So take heart Christian - you're on the winning team.
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