Revelation 13: The Last-Days' Dictator

"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb."Revelation 13:8

Opening prayer: Father, these visions are disturbing, especially in view of recent news reports. Open our hearts to understand these visions and know the truth about the last-days deceiver, we pray.

This is a continuation of our series on the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to study our previous lessons in this series:
Rev. Study: "Are We There Yet, Daddy?"
Rev. 1: The Revelation of Jesus
Rev. 2-3: I Know You!
Rev. 4-5: Preview of Heaven
Rev. Study: Prophecies of Daniel
Rev. Study: Raptures and Resurrections
Rev. 6: Overview of the Tribulation
Rev. 7: Some Special People
Rev. 8-9: Danger! Rough Road Ahead!
Rev. 10-11: Seven Thunders; Two Witnesses
Rev. 12: The Woman and The Dragon.

Our last lesson, on Revelation chapter 12, described symbols (or signs) in heaven: the woman representing Israel and the red dragon representing Satan. By the end of that chapter, the woman and the dragon were both pictured here on earth.

Revelation chapter 13 introduces my least-favorite person in Scripture: the Last-Days' Dictator. This individual is better known in popular Western literature as "the Antichrist" or "the Beast." In Islamic prophetic writings, this individual is called the Mahdi. The Greek word translated "antichrist" could also be translated "substitute messiah" or "substitute deliverer." When this individual appears, he might not immediately appear to be against Jesus and Christians and Jews. But the veneer of political correctness will rapidly vanish and his true colors will emerge soon enough.

The book of Revelation doesn't begin to say much about this fellow until chapter 13, verse 1:

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the names of blasphemy.

This chapter begins with a beast rising out of the sea, which represents a multitude of Gentile nations and peoples. There's quite a bit of information conveyed in this verse:

Uh, teacher... What's blasphemy?

Blasphemy is to say something bad (or just plain lie) about God, His character, His power, His Son or His authority. Some examples:

Blasphemy is a very common sin these days. My friends, we are surrounded by "nice" people who babble blasphemy -- concepts they've heard on TV or in public school classrooms or in godless support (whine and blame) groups. These "nice" people would be horrified if they knew how their words sound to God. Pray, deeply and sincerely, for your "nice" relatives and friends. God loves them as much as He loves you, and can give them a new heart and eternal life if they ask for it. Without a heart for God, "nice" people will be deceived by the blasphemous beast.

Jesus made a very peculiar statement about blasphemy in Matthew 12 verses 31-32:

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

Bible expositors call this "the unpardonable sin," and lots of folks have complicated-sounding theories about what Jesus meant. I prefer a simple explanation: God can understand and forgive people who look at Jesus but don't get it at first, because He came in a visible (and probably ordinary-looking) body. But when Jesus worked the will of God, demonstrating the mighty POWER of God through the Holy Spirit, it was (and still is) blasphemy to say that the devil empowered Jesus. We'll talk more about this later, when we see the Last-Days' Dictator and his buddy being empowered by the devil.

Let's return to Revelation 13 and read verse 2, which is pure symbolism with a familiar ring to it:

And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as [the feet] of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

Let's look at the second half of verse 2 first. This beast is not a nice person. He will be given unprecedented power and authority from the devil himself. A long time ago, the devil offered the kingdoms of the world to Jesus (see Matthew 4), and Jesus refused. The devil will make a similar offer to the Last-Days' Dictator in the near future, and the beast will gladly accept it.

The first part of verse 2 above is an exact reference to the imagery in Daniel chapter 7, verses 3-8:

3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon two feet as a man; and a man's heart was given to it.
5 And, behold, another beast, a second, like to a bear; and it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
6 After this I beheld, and, lo, another, like a leopard, which had upon its back four wings of a bird; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
7 After this I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, a fourth beast, terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.

Sorry, teacher: that is still a head-stretching amount of symbolism.

I know. But as we saw in our lesson on the Prophecies of Daniel, the fourth beast is a picture of the ten-kingdom Islamic confederacy ruled by the Last-Days' Dictator. Likewise the lion, bear and leopard are characteristics of earlier kingdoms (Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Grecian) that oppressed Israel. Both Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 apparently are saying that elements of these kingdoms will be present in the last-days' composite beast.

When you do a word search of the Bible, you quickly discover that leopards are only mentioned a half-dozen times total, including the two examples described above in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13. Of the remaining four appearances, none are in a context that points to specific last-days' kingdoms. However, two are in contexts describing judgment upon the nation Israel for its unfaithfulness, and a third is in a context describing the blessings to be brought by Messiah's reign during the Milennium. Let's look at the three promising passages and see if we can see any hints.

The best-known passage is Isaiah 11, verses 1-7:

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears. 4 But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall he slay the wicked. 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins. 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

Surprise! One of the most-loved passages in all the Bible describes all three of these predatory animals. Suddenly we discover a new meaning to these familiar verses. Yes, there will be harmony in the animal kingdom, and harmony between humans and animals. But the most remarkable achievement will be harmony between the ethnic and geographic groups of humans.

Now let's look at Jeremiah 5, verses 1-6:

Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be [any] that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it. 2 And though they say, The LORD liveth; surely they swear falsely. 3 O LORD, [are] not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, [but] they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return. 4 Therefore I said, Surely these [are] poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, [nor] the judgment of their God. 5 I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the LORD, [and] the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, [and] burst the bonds. 6 Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, [and] a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, [and] their backslidings are increased.

In this passage, Jeremiah laments that the people of Israel, even the "great men" who "have known the way of the Lord," have all gone astray from the ways of God. Lions and leopards are pictured as God's agents of judgment upon His wayward people.

Now let's see Hosea 13, verses 2-9:

And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, [and] idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves. 3 Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff [that] is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney. 4 Yet I [am] the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for [there is] no saviour beside Me. 5 I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 6 According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten Me. 7 Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe [them]: 8 I will meet them as a bear [that is] bereaved [of her whelps], and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them. 9 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me [is] thine help.

This passage exactly parallels Jeremiah's message, saying that Israel will suffer at the hands of the Lord because of their idolatry. Note that verse 9 says "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me [is] thine help." God is being strict with them, to get their attention. But He tenderly awaits the opportunity to receive them back as beloved, repentant children.

So how do the three passages relate to Revelation 13 and Daniel 7?

As this lesson is being revised (late 2011), the nation Israel has not yet awakened to their Messiah. In fact, very few Israelites have much real knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, the days are fast approaching when the Lord will send the lion and bear and leopard countries to be part of the last-days' group that oppresses Israel under the leadership of the Last-Days' Dictator.

After the dictator (the beast) is given a private suite in Hell (the Lake of Fire), the Messiah of Israel will establish His kingdom on earth, with Jerusalem as its capital. And Israel will be at peace with the nations (including the countries represented by the lion, bear and leopard) that formerly oppressed her.

Sentimental folk love to read about the upcoming harmony between formerly predatory animals, but peace among formerly predatory people will be a greater miracle.

Let's continue with Revelation 13, verses 3-4:

And I saw one of his heads as it were slain, and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world marvelled after the beast. 4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, "Who [is] like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

Does verse 3 mean that the Last-Days' Dictator will be a man who comes back from the dead?

That's not what this passage says. Remember God is showing us a picture in symbols, and the symbols have consistent meaning. The heads of the demonic beast represent the brains of the outfit: the demonic creatures who have been given specific geographic authority for a specific (and limited) period of time. All seven heads have already come and gone from the scene of history. Commentators who have converted from Islam, especially Walid Shoebat believe that the wounded head represents the seventh empire -- the Islamic Caliphate that was broken up in 1924. That empire and its demonic chieftan were removed from power (deadly head wound), but will seemingly rise from the ashbin of history to regain prominence in the last days. Other opinions are possible, and we will discuss them as we go along.

For now, just remember that one of the heads had a fatal wound. Since spirits don't die, the symbolism of the deadly wound must describe one of the heads (a demon creature) being removed from its position of authority. He lost his territorial franchise. In other words, the kingdom or empire ruled by this particular head has already passed from the scene of history and (as we learn in other Scriptures) the demon creature has been confined to the bottomless pit. But somehow, the Last-Days' Dictator will appear to represent the resurgence or resurrection of a long-dead empire.

Let's reinforce this point by looking ahead to Revelation 17, verses 7-13:

And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. 8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition (Gk: apoleian): 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. 9 And here [is] the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. 10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, [and] the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. 11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition (Gk: apoleian). 12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. 13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

This passage appears in the context of the beast giving a ride to the symbolic woman representing blasphemous religion. We'll explain the woman in a later lesson.

The first thing to note here is the timing:

Which one?

This passage doesn't tell us which, but some passages in Daniel give us some strong hints. At this point, I strongly suggest you review the Study on Daniel, because of the wealth of detail the Lord chooses to reveal in that book.

Remember that our charter in this study is to minimize speculation by only using Scripture to interpret Scripture. My goal is NOT to persuade you that my view is correct. My goal IS to encourage you to develop YOUR OWN practice of studying Scripture. You owe it to yourself (and to your spouse, your kids and your neighbors) to read the Bible yourself and pray for the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and understanding. If you do, He will.

Having said that, here are some of the clues in Daniel concerning the geographic roots of the Last-Days' Dictator:

Hey, teacher! Why did you highlight the Greek word for "perdition" in Revelation 17, verses 8 and 11 above?

Good question. The underlying Greek word is apoleian. This word is from the same Greek root as Apollyon, the king of the demon locusts that are released from the Abyss in Revelation 9. As we have seen in earlier lessons, there is a consistent series of references in prophetic Scriptures to the pagan entities based on the legends of Nimrod, Osiris, and Apollo. When this passage was written, John's readers would have instantly grasped the idea that the heroes of pagan mythology are just fallen demonic creatures pretending to be gods. And these same ugly creatures will re-emerge to torment the entire world in the near future.

Back to Revelation chapter 13. Verses 5-10 fill in some more details about the coming dictator:

And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty [and] two months. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. 8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 9 If any man have an ear, let him hear. 10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

This passage is pretty simple, so we'll just point out a few quick points:

Hey, teacher! I've never heard of the Antichrist arising in the Middle East before reading your lessons. Are you some kind of Islamophobe?

Most of the English-language prophecy books and study Bibles teach a Western European beast who rules mostly European and North American countries. These materials reflect attitudes prevalent before 1979, when militant Islam re-emerged on the stage of history. Since then, especially since the attacks of September 11, thoughtful scholars have studied the Scriptures just referenced above and opened their minds to grasp that:

Although the Western world is unaware of it, the entire Muslim world is eagerly awaiting a last-days empire under a newly established Caliphate. On page 54 of his excellent book, "God's War on Terror," Walid Shoebat (formerly a Muslim terrorist and presently a Christian author and lecturer) says:

Historically the Caliph is the supreme political, military and administrative leader of all Muslims worldwide. Try to understand it this way: the Caliph is essentially the Vicar of Mohammed as the Pope is the Vicar of Christ to Catholics worldwide. The office and government of the Caliph is known as the Califate (Khilafat). It is the only form of government that is fully sanctioned by Islamic jurisprudence.

But since 1924, after nearly fourteen centuries of "divine rule," the office of the Caliph was finally abolished. Today, the movement throughout the Muslim world to reinstate the Caliphate is exploding with a force that is volcanic. With a mandate to have both seats of the Mahdi and Caliph in one, Mohammed said, "There would be a caliph in the last period of my Ummah...He would be the Imam Mahdi." In other words, this last Khalifa, when he installed, would be the Mahdi of the End Times.

If you have any doubts about the veracity of the above statements, I suggest you do a web search on the words "restore the Khilafat" and spend a few minutes educating yourself. Then refresh your memory concerning the turmoil in the Muslim world that began in early 2011, when multiple governments fell to mobs led by the Muslim Brotherhood. As you know, the Muslim Brotherhood is dedicated to re-establishing the office of the Caliph and imposition of Sharia law on every human being, as Mr. Shoebat predicted in the passage above. I strongly recommend that you go to Mr. Shoebat's website and buy his book.

Now let's meet the beast's buddy, in Revelation 13 verses 11-13:

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth. And he had two horns like a lamb and spake as a dragon. 12 And he exercised all the power of the first beast before him; and he causes the earth and all who dwell therein to worship the first beast whose deadly wound was healed. 13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.

Hello. Meet the False Prophet. Doesn't he look nice? See, he has two little horns like a lamb: he will look very meek and gentle, like Jesus. He will be a VERY religious man. He will give glory to his god, and quote selected passages from both the Koran and the Bible. All your neighbors will be energized and inspired by his talks on TV. He will speak the very words of the devil himself.

Have you ever heard somebody say, "My religion is a very PERSONAL subject." Mister False Prophet will say something like that, too. His religion will be very personal: worship of a very vile person, the Last-Days' Dictator. And Mister False Prophet will shove his religion right down your throat.

Make no mistake: this fellow will be VERY convincing. In fact, he'll be a miracle worker. No kidding. Fire from heaven. Just like Pokemon and some of the Saturday-morning cartoon shows. Your kids (or grandkids) might enjoy his show, unless they have learned better from you.

What about the miracles?

Some denominations teach that miracles and the gifts of the Spirit came to a screeching halt as soon as the original apostles died. They believe that all present-day manifestations of miracles are from the devil. That's nonsense, variety number one. People who believe this run the risk of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Now the other side of the coin. Some years ago, I visited a church that had started with strong Bible teaching, but (under a new pastor) grew progressively fixated on "miracle services" with visiting "evangelists" who would work up a sweat exhorting the sheep with semi-Biblical preaching, and pushing on people's foreheads as a cue to be "slain in the spirit." They believed that all present-day manifestations of miracles are from God. That's nonsense, variety number two. Again, this is borderline blasphemy, because we KNOW much of the televised charismania is staged and fake. At best it's taking the Lord's name in vain.

Forget other people's opinions, including mine. Read the Gospels and the Book of Acts and the epistles for yourself. Notice all the references to the power of God, working through the lives of submitted believers. God's revealed plan (the Bible) hasn't changed one bit since then, nor has He lost any power. Fewer legitimate miracles just means that there are fewer submitted believers. Consider this:

Make no mistake: the other spirits have power. Their powers are limited (compared to God's power and authority), but even limited spiritual power looks impressive to us earthlings. Maybe YOU are an experienced miracle worker, but I've never been able to make fire come down from the sky. The False Prophet "maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men." This glory hog will make sure everybody is watching, especially the TV cameras. Your neighbors will be very impressed -- unless somebody teaches them the truth beforehand.

The False Prophet is the Muslim Jesus

Did you know that Muslim people have a strongly held belief that Jesus will return to earth in the end times? Mr. Shoebat's book also contains this passage:

The second most important Muslim end-times character is Isa-Almaseeh, the Muslim Jesus. The Islamic narrative regarding Jesus is dramatically different from the historical and Biblical Jesus. The Jesus of Islam is in no way a "savior" or redeemer. He is merely one more prophet out of a long line of prophets sent by Allah.

The special title of Messiah, although retained in the Islamic tradition, actually is void of any truly Biblical Messianic qualities. According to Islam, Jesus will not restore the nation of Israel to the Jewish people. Nor will Jesus' purpose be to save and deliver his faithful followers from the ongoing persecution of the Antichrist. In Islam, Jesus comes back as a radical Muslim to lead the Muslim armies, to abolish Christianity and to slaughter the Jews. As ironic and as perverted as that may sound, that is exactly what fundamental Muslims throughout the world believe and are awaiting.

Let's learn more about the Muslim Jesus and the Mahdi in Revelation 13 verses 14-15:

And [he] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by [the means of] those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. 15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

These two verses raise several key questions: What is the image of the beast? How does the False Prophet give it life and make it speak? And what's with this sword wound on the beast? Let's cover the sword wound last, and talk about the image first.

Whatever the image is, the False Prophet will be the instigator.

A century ago, Bible commentators and translators figured the "image of the beast" was a statue, and that this statue would be made to talk like a ventriloquist dummy. None of the commentators had a clue how beast worship could be enforced -- unless there was a talking dummy (and religion police) in every town.

Six decades ago, some folks thought motion pictures (remember movie theaters and drive-ins?) would be the enabling technology. Movie goers would watch their weekly newsreel of beast-speak and declare their worship to the religion police -- maybe by an arm salute like the Nazis were using in Germany.

Four decades ago, Bible commentators figured the image of the beast had something to do with television. By then, some pioneers were testing primitive forms of interactive TV, which would enable watchers to push buttons and send signals back to the TV station. This technology would enable the beast's religion police to monitor which households were pushing the "Worship" button and which were not.

About 20 years ago, it became possible to implant computer microchips into people. The technology has primarily been used to implant tiny identification chips into dogs and cats but they have become refined enough to be implanted into humans for a variety of purposes.

About one decade ago, the Internet became another enabling technology. Streaming audio and video enable us to see moving pictures and send messages to and from anywhere. Anybody can pull up an image of a beast on a computer and hear him/her/it talking through the PC speakers. In recent years, inexpensive cell phones have Internet and messaging capabilities. Computers can even have biometric scanners. Web pages can have "Worship" buttons.

In the past few years, "advances" in genetic modification have raised a different possibility: that evil scientists (they exist, sadly) would develop an injectable "vaccine" that could irreversibly alter a person's very DNA structure. This could be teamed with a more-easily discerned device such as an implanted chip to track (and perhaps alter) a person's behavior.

The problem with all the above solutions is that they are very Western-culture-centric. Only a portion of the world has universal access to Internet technology, and access to genetic warfare materials is not yet widespread.

Another key issue is the location of the beast's empire. As we have demonstrated, the beast's power center will be the Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Except for a few large cities, the region is mostly backwards towns and villages. They haven't changed much for centuries.

Therefore, in order for the image to have the widespread impact described in Revelation 13, there must already be some basis for image worship already extant in those regions. Can we find something suitable in the present-day Muslim culture? Can we observe any existing practice among present-day Muslims that would fit Revelation 13? Hint: prayer rugs.

By now, you should have seen photos (or in-person experiences) of devout Muslims praying five times per day toward Mecca. Have you ever wondered what in Mecca they are praying to?

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, I suggest you do a web search on the words "black stone ka'aba" and see what you find.

If you do any research, you will discover that Muslims worship a black stone embedded into one corner of a cubical building (the Ka'aba) in Mecca. Devout Muslims are expected to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in their lifetimes. During that pilgrimage, they must circle the Ka'aba and the black stone seven times in order to have all their past sins forgiven. In less-crowded times, pilgrims can approach the Ka'aba and actually kiss the black stone.

Here are some peculiar things about the stone and Ka'aba that you might (or might not) already know:

When you put all the pieces together, you realize that "image" does not necessarily refer to a photographic likeness. The Bible uses it to refer to any physical object that becomes an object of worship. Furthermore, it's obvious that in order for the False Prophet to establish a suitable "image" of the beast, there must be some type of idolatrous worship already being practiced in the region to be dominated by the beast. Islam has conveniently provided the image (the black stone), the traditional daily prayer/worship and centuries of tradition that has engrained the practice into about a billion Muslims.

But how does the False Prophet get the image to speak like it says in Revelation 13:15?

That's pretty easy. A speaker can be hidden behind the stone. Or the False Prophet can position himself next to the stone and pretend to be getting "messages" from the image. Or there can be TV images of the stone that have human voice messages overdubbed onto a sound track. We don't need to give this matter much thought.

Are you ever going to tell us more about the beast's sword wound?

In the first references to a deadly wound, the demonic personages were in view. In that context, the wound was clearly related to the collapse of the former empire ruled by the demon. In Revelation 13, verse 14, God repeats the concept of a deadly wound. This time He describes it as a sword wound, and this context appears to attach it to the visible person, the Last-Days' Dictator himself.

One possible explanation (not the only possible explanation) is to connect Revelation 13 to the imagery we see in Zechariah 11, verses 15-17:

And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee again the instruments of a useless shepherd. 16 For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, [which] shall not look for the lost, neither shall he seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still. But he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. 17 Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! The sword [shall be] upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.

This passage absolutely jumps off the page in its context of prophecy, even when you're not looking for the Last-Days' Dictator. The expression "idol shepherd" is an exact, literal translation of the Hebrew, and it must make the Hebrew readers cringe. Zechariah put the word "idol" (Jewish people abhor idols) together with "shepherd" (the imagery of their messiah). Even in the English language, the verse shocks the sensitive reader.

These verses describe a very vile person. He introduces himself as a shepherd. He comes to bring peace. He will help you achieve your highest dreams. He will help you realize your highest potential and tap your own inner divine powers. And he will lead you straight to Hell.

Just to be sure you recognize him, God describes him in gory detail. The word "sword" in this passage refers to the common sword of the Israelites -- usually short and bronze. This was the most-common personal weapon of the day.

The person described in Zechariah apparently survived an assassination attempt from somebody wielding a personal weapon, either sword or handgun. The wound would have been severe enough to have killed him, yet he rose (or will appear to rise) up from his apparent death bed.

So does this passage in Zechariah describe the last-days' beast? Perhaps. Other explanations are possible. For your homework, I suggest you read all of Zechariah 11 through 14, because the bulk of it concerns end-time prophecy.

Hey, teacher! I don't believe modern-day folks will worship this guy.

You don't? Are you the only adult in the Northern Hemisphere who doesn't own a TV? Are you the only adult in the Northern Hemisphere who didn't notice the pre-election adoration of Barack Hussein Obama? Maybe you haven't noticed, but hero worship has become a world-wide addiction and television is the primary altar of worship. The Internet is gaining, but still trails the tube by a lot.

Hero worship?

Yes. Hero worship. Remember that our English word "worship" is a contraction of "worth-ship." A modern-day worship service is an activity where people gather and spend time singing and giving honor and offerings to their God or god(s). By this definition, baseball and football games qualify. Ditto basketball games and music concerts. Ditto for cable TV and movies.

We love to find and enshrine heroes. When Michael Jordan retired from basketball, the sports journalists offered endless prayers (in print!) for some other player to step up and become the next media idol. Before he fell off his pedestal, Tiger Woods used to improve TV ratings by 25-50% when he played in specific golf tournaments.

We love to give offerings to our gods. Just follow the money trail. We buy their books. We buy tickets to their games and their concerts. We watch their TV programs and movies. We sing their songs, buy their exercise videos, follow their diets, contribute to their political campaigns.

And we worship ourselves. Have you ever seen a house without a bathroom mirror? Have you seen many ads appealing to your modesty or humility or poverty or weakness? Our culture does not glorify weak or poor people. Our magazines do not publish articles advocating helplessness and powerlessness. You have probably never seen a plastic surgeon holding a cardboard sign saying, "Will cut for food."

When the Last-Days' Dictator rises to power, people will be awestruck at the fellow. He will appear to be a man of peace. He will say words that make people feel good about themselves. In fact, his message will probably sound quite a bit like the devil's pitch in Genesis chapter three: "Follow this easy path to enlightenment, and become gods yourselves!"

Nobody would fall for that old line.

Don't be so sure. Adam and Eve had direct, personal knowledge of God, and THEY fell for it. My parents raised me in a God-fearing home, but I fell for the devil's lies and spent several years following gurus and doing horoscopes and palm-readings. I know and love many people who have not yet overcome the seductive lies of "Thou art God!" and "Follow this path to enlightenment!" It breaks my heart, but all I can do is pray for them.

History tells us of many madmen with occultic backgrounds who led entire nations astray by appealing to their egos. The people of Germany were among the best-educated in the world, but they fell for Hitler's lies about being a superior race. In fact, many people (outside of Germany) thought Hitler was the antichrist; even after his death, the tabloids published articles speculating that Hitler would recover from his deadly wound and come out of hiding to assemble another world empire.

You can be sure, from your own experience with human nature, that people will worship this Last-Days' Dictator. He will be an impressive public speaker. He will be an incredibly persuasive statesman. He will appear to bring peace. He will build political and military alliances so powerful that no country on earth would dare attack him. He will appear to be a sincerely religious man. He will make people feel good about themselves. And he will be a damned liar, like his mentor, the dragon.

Now the False Prophet's crowning accomplishment, in Revelation 13 verses 16-18:

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads, 17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number [is] Six hundred threescore [and] six.

The False Prophet will be the devil's agent for instituting the Antichrist's trademark: "The Mark of the Beast." Let's look at what God chooses to reveal about the mark in this passage:

Hey, teacher! If it's not a computer chip or plain numbers, then what could it be?

As before, we can look to Muslim religious practice and see if there is any type of voluntary mark by which Muslims identify themselves with Allah.

For centuries, it has been a common Muslim practice for warriors to wear arm bands bearing the name of Allah in one form of another.

The name of Allah is often written in conjunction with the word ta'ala, meaning "the most high." This is pure blasphemy, ascribing the attributes of the God of the Bible to Beelzebub, known to Muslims as Allah.

The Quran (27:82) predicts that in the end times, the beast from the earth will mark all Muslims on the forehead to distinguish them from non-Muslims. Enthusiastic young Muslims these days all look forward to taking that mark to identify with the Mahdi (Last-Days' Dictator and beast from the earth).

Perhaps the most-peculiar connection (again, thanks to the detective work of Walid Shoebat) is that the Greek symbols for six hundred, sixty and six (in the oldest manuscripts) resemble the Arabic bismillah ("in the name of Allah") plus the crossed swords that have been the symbol of Islam since the beginning. The bismillah is a phrase recited at the beginning of public prayers and before any recitation from the Quran.

So is the bismillah the mark of the beast? I don't know, but it fits the description in Scripture. If the 70th week of Daniel began today, the bismillah would be a strong candidate for the mark of the beast. If the Lord delays another century or two, the mark might be something else.

At this point, we should end the speculation about the mark and move onward. All we need to remember is that the mark of the beast must be something obvious and intentional. It cannot be something (like a Social Security number) that can be assigned to a person without his or her conscious knowledge. The mark must be something that identifies a person with the beast and to the beast. Some type of conscious decision must be involved or God would not spend so much time warning us not to take the mark.

What else does the Bible tell us about the Last-Days Dictator?

Quite a bit, actually. We'll see more in future lessons. But we absolutely must include some information from Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians, because it sheds light onto his timing and his character.

Paul describes the beast in 2 Thessalonians, starting with verses 3-5:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (literally "the son of the apoleias"); 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

Paul calls him "the man of sin" and identifies him as "the son of the apoleias" -- another reference to the demonic character Apollo adored by the pagans of his day but who actually is king of the demon locusts in the Abyss. The man of sin will be the very embodiment of evil and blasphemy. But the world will be absolutely charmed by him -- at first. Then he will desecrate the rebuilt (and still future) temple in Jerusalem by standing in the Holy of Holies, as Jesus predicted, declaring his divinity. That will tip off the smart Israelites (those who paid attention to the 144,000) to run for the hills.

Paul continues, verses 6-12:

6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now restrains will continue to restrain until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: 9 Him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

These verses tell us:

The Love of the Truth

Jesus loves you, personally and passionately. His love and power are the best protection you have against the forces of darkness that will soon rise to power here on earth. His truth will make you immune to the seductive lies of the beast and the False Prophet. My hope is that you've already come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the true Messiah of Israel.

If you aren't sure of your relationship with Jesus, please click the "mail-to" link below to send us an e-mail. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can.

Now two quick offers before we close:

Closing Prayer: Lord, every day I see news stories and hear blasphemous statements from people who don't have the love of the truth. Please make Your love and Your truth real for me, that I can help make Your Son, Jesus, become real to others. Amen.

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Hey, teacher! Can you give us an overall timeline for all the tribulation events? I'm getting confused about what happens before what.

Welcome to the club: nobody (including you and me) can know the exact chronology, but we can develop some guidelines by comparing these Scriptures to other prophetic passages. The problem arises because the book of Revelation is arranged by subject, not by strict chronology. Within each chapter or major division, the events are arranged in sequence. But these events might happen before, after, or concurrently with events revealed in later chapters. For example, both the sixth seal of Chapter 6 and the seventh trumpet in Chapter 11 announce the beginning of the Day of the Lord, at the very end of the Great Tribulation.

Having said all that, we can make some cautious generalizations about chronology. Since many of you appreciated the timeline given in previous lessons, I've extended it a bit to include the material in Chapter 13.

A Guide to Last-Days Events

Here are some general guidelines based on material we've already covered:

In upcoming lessons, we will add more significant events to the above outline. Click here to return to the lesson.

Hey, teacher! I don't agree with your conclusions!

Good! Please don't be satisfied with ANYBODY's explanation, especially mine. My goal is to spur you on to do further study on your own. In fact, nothing would make me happier than to hear that you were so outraged by my lessons that you spent days studying these Scriptures trying to prove me wrong.

All I ask is one thing: Spend your time studying the Bible. Don't waste your time reading books ABOUT the Bible, except for fun. (Hint: You will save yourself a lot of grief (and money) if you avoid commentaries.) Instead, pray for the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind. Then make up your own lists and charts based on your own personal study of the Bible.

A few study helps are worth purchasing. Look up key words and phrases in your Strong's Concordance and in your Vines' Dictionary of New Testament Words. Get the Greek/English Interlinear text by George Ricker Berry, so you can get a flavor for the word-by-word literal translation of the Greek. Spend the majority of your time studying in the King James Version or the New King James translation. These two are the most accurate. (Note: Although the paraphrase versions (Living Bible, NIV) are very readable for the Old Testament and helpful for devotional studies, they are less accurate in the New Testament.) Follow up on the margin notes in your Bible, looking for related passages and concepts. Take everybody's explanations (including mine) with a grain of salt. Click here to return to the conclusion of the lesson.