|- J. Preston Eby -
The Bible is the only book in the world that gives a view of human history as a whole, that carries us from the lost Paradise of Eden, to the restored Paradise of the Apocalypse, traces the course of the human race through every stage of its intermediate existence on earth, and on beyond the limits of time, into the boundless regions of eternity. The entire story of mankind as presented in Scripture is composed of two parts, the historic and the prophetic. The histories of Scripture reach back to the farthest past, and its prophecies extend to the most distant future; taken together the two afford a panoramic view of the whole course of events, from the creation and fall of man, through all the corrective judgments and mighty movings of the Holy Spirit throughout long ages, to that gladsome day when God becomes in very reality "all-in-all" - everything to everyone everywhere!
The Bible is therefore the chart of all history, and it gives us, not events only, but their MORAL AND SPIRITUAL CHARACTER. Events are shown in connection with their causes and effects, and the judgment of God as to their character is revealed, and His overruling purpose in it all. Without the blazing revelation of God's grand and glorious purpose being wrought out in the earth, history would be a spectacle of "rivers flowing from unknown sources, to unknown seas;" but under the searchlight of the spirit of wisdom and revelation from God we can trace the complex currents to their springs, and see the end, from the beginning.
The vast majority of the prophecies of the Scriptures are couched in symbolic terms, hiding much of the "mysteries" of God in figurative language. This is done quite purposely by the Lord that the non-elect while "seeing" actually "see not" and "hearing" actually "hear not" (Mat. 13:10-17). The careful study of the key Semitic symbols, in which so much of the Word of God is given, is vitally important to the one who would "rightly divide the Word of truth". Since the book of Revelation is a "signified" or "sign-language" book, we should not be surprised to find that it abounds in Semitic symbols which convey the truth in figurative language.
A person who speaks only the English language can take a book, written in French, and while he may not be able to read it, except with much hesitation and mispronunciation, still he can struggle through it, after a fashion. Occasionally he will come to a word which closely resembles the English, with which he is familiar. But, because he knows nothing of the meaning of French words, no matter how well he can read the text, it means nothing to him until he learns what each individual French word means.
Even so, Christians who read Bible prophecy, if they do not understand prophetical language, are confronted with a similar problem. Prophecy is invariably written in spiritual and prophetical terms, and unless one understands the meaning of each individual term, though he may be able to read the text fluently, yet he has no understanding of what he reads. So, before one can understand prophecy, he first must receive a revelation of the prophetic language. Fortunately, the Word furnishes us with KEYS to prophetical terms by which we may, through consistent study, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, become proficient in the prophetic language.
In Rev. 13:1-10 (please read this in your Bible) John the Revelator sets forth several prophetical terms. Some of these are: SEA, BEAST, HORNS, CROWNS, DRAGON, EARTH, HEAVEN, LAMB. To gain a better understanding of these symbolical terms, it is necessary to elaborate in some detail upon a few of them. Three terms used repeatedly throughout the book of Revelation are SEA, EARTH, and HEAVEN. Most of the events in the whole book take place in one of these three realms - in the sea, in the earth, or in heaven.
"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..." (Rev. 13:1). The LOWEST of the three realms mentioned above is the sea. A number of things happen in the sea. "I saw a beast rise up out of the SEA;" "...and the SEA gave up the dead that were in it;" "Woe to the inhabiters of the SEA, for the devil is come down unto you;" "And the second angel poured out his vial upon the SEA; and it became as the blood of a dead man," etc. etc. Throughout the Scriptures the SEA is a type of the raging, restless, surging masses of unregenerate humanity, tossed to and fro by the inner storms of the turbulent nature of old Adam. The prophet Isaiah penned these inspired words, "The wicked are like THE TROUBLED SEA, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked" (Isa. 57:20-21). Jude also described wicked men when he said, "These are RAGING WAVES OF THE SEA, foaming out their own shame" (Jude 13). John, on the Isle of Patmos, had a vision of a great whore sitting on many waters. The angel revealed the meaning of the "many waters", saying, "the waters which you saw, where the whore sits, ARE PEOPLES, AND MULTITUDES, AND NATIONS, AND TONGUES"
The natural sea is a great deep, an abyss (Gen. 1:2; 7:11; 8:2; Deut. 8:7; 33:13). The Psalmist wrote of this abyss of wicked men, "They SEARCH out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent SEARCH: both the INWARD THOUGHT of every one of them, and the HEART is D-E-E-P (an abyss)" (Ps. 64:6). To the enlightened mind of David the depth of iniquity of which the human heart is capable is so great that it is beyond the ability of man to comprehend. The heart of man is an UNFATHOMABLE DEPTH, or, as Jeremiah observed, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: WHO CAN KNOW IT?" (Jer. 17:9). While John the Revelator saw a beast rising out of the sea (abyss, depth) of humanity (the carnal mind), Jesus expressed the same truth thus, "For from WITHIN, O-U-T O-F THE HEART OF MEN, proceed all these evil things!"
No one can dispute the fact that it is this restless, turbulent, raging, wicked heart of unregenerate men that inspires every imaginable evil and devilish perversion, and has filled the world with ever increasing confusion, immorality, faithlessness, falsehood, fraud, hatred, violence, greed, cruelty, wars and rumors of wars, bloodshed and oppression. Ah, the SEA is the LOWEST REALM on earth, and this vast sea of degenerate humanity represents mankind at his lowest point - as bad off as man can be!
The HIGHEST realm known to man is called HEAVEN. The interpretations of poor human beings are always childish in the extreme, for we know nothing yet as we ought to know. We have tried to picture heaven as a far-off place of many mansions, full of splendid temples and exquisite lawns, fountains and flowers, where idle inhabitants while away an endless eternity flitting about in white night gowns over golden streets and shouting hallelujah.
The Greek word for "heaven" is "ouranous". The meaning of "ouranous" is ELEVATION, HEIGHT, EXALTATION, EMINENCE. It has both natural and spiritual applications. In its spiritual application it bespeaks the eternal and omnipresent REALM OF THE SPIRIT in which God and all celestial beings dwell - FAR ABOVE the realm of the physical, material, earthly, and mortal. It is not a geographical or astral location. It is not a place. It is A DIMENSION OF LIFE AND REALITY, A STATE OF BEING, A SPHERE OF EXISTENCE. Every spirit life-form lives on a plane of spiritual awareness and being. Each of these planes constitutes a "heaven", a spiritual realm ABOVE THE PHYSICAL.
Christ had left His heavenly glory. He had humbled Himself, had taken upon Himself the form of sinful man; and becoming a man, was despised and rejected. He was of no reputation. And yet, while in humility and reproach, a Man among men, He made this statement: "No man has ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man WHICH I-S IN HEAVEN" (Jn. 3:13). The Son of God left His glory, and descended to the depths of shame and reproach. He came and took our place of disgrace in order that we might be raised and exalted and honored and, under Him, be given a name above every name. He, the Christ, Who was made in all things like unto His brethren, yet, while a man on earth, in humility, Himself said, "The Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN!"
Jesus the Christ, when a man on earth, was at the same time, in heaven. Our Lord was in heaven; He came down from heaven, and still was in heaven. It is something a person can be in, can descend from, and still possess. Our Lord was the Mighty God. But He descended from that state. But, nevertheless, in His humility He was still the Mighty God, God manifest in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us! Yes, even while in the flesh, by the eternal Spirit within He was ONE with the invisible, infinite REALM OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. His outer man was conscious of the earthly realm and one with it, but the inner man was conscious of the eternal realm and one with it. The heavens were open to Him, He dwelt and lived and walked and manifested out of the divine sphere of life.
And yet Christians in ignorance sing, "When we all get to heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be!" Heaven for those who have been born from above is not a future hope. It is a present reality. Jesus, in His spiritual body of resurrection, ascended up "F-A-R A-B-O-V-E A-L-L PRINCIPALITY AND POWER, AND MIGHT, AND DOMINION, AND EVERY NAME THAT IS NAMED." He was made to sit at the right hand of God, FAR ABOVE the realms of all the other forms of spiritual life that inhabit God's vast universe; not above them geographically, but above them in RANK, in QUALITY OF LIFE, in EMINENCE and POWER and NATURE and GLORY! Christ is enthroned in the highest heaven. All those elect Sons whom the Father chose "in Him" in eternity past are now "IN the Beloved", and therefore enthroned WITH CHRIST in the highest heaven. "If you then BE RISEN WITH CHRIST, seek those things which are ABOVE, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things ABOVE, not on things on the earth, for you are dead, and your (new) life is hid WITH CHRIST IN GOD" (Col. 3:1-3). Ah, it is really true that God has "quickened us together with Christ; and has raised us up together, and made us SIT TOGETHER IN HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST JESUS!" (Eph. 2:5-6). Our bodies may still be tied to earth, but the Sons of God are discovering the glorious and eternal reality of HEAVEN N-O-W! "As is the heavenly, such are they also that ARE HEAVENLY" (I Cor. 15:48).
Heaven is naught but the Biblical name of the REALM OF GOD'S SPIRIT, the invisible and omnipresent realm of Spiritual Reality. And it is all around us. It is as near to us as the very air we breathe, yea, closer to us even than the blood coursing its way through our veins. We are one with it by virtue of our spiritual life. We touch heaven as we touch God. We behold heavenly things as we fasten mind and heart upon spiritual realities. We walk in heaven as we walk in the Spirit. Heaven is, furthermore, the realm of God's government - His infinite power and almighty Kingship. "Thus says the Lord, the HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, and the earth is My footstool" (Isa. 66:1). We do well to remember that heaven is not a place away off somewhere in the ethereal blue, millions of miles distant; but "heaven I-S M-Y T-H-R-O-N-E." God's heaven is His throne, the sphere of His OMNIPOTENT POWER, from which He reigns over the earth and all things! And now the One who has received ALL POWER says, "But YOU shall receive POWER after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and YOU shall be witnesses unto Me..." (Acts 1:8). All who receive this power become AMBASSADORS of the Kingdom of God. Ah, Sons of God, let us arise and live the heavenly life!
When the day of Pentecost came, Peter stood up with the eleven. Let us consider the situation on that day. There was Peter, a fisherman, an ignorant and unlearned man, an uncouth and apparently worthless man. But on that day when he rose with the eleven to testify and proclaim that Jesus was resurrected and ascended into the heavens, this little man was in a position of eminence and authority much higher than the highest rank of this earth. What a transformation the Holy Ghost wrought! The greatest and most exalted on this earth could not compare with Peter and those standing with him. Why were they so high? How could such as them be so exalted? It was because at the very moment their spirits were quickened by God's Spirit, they were IN THE ASCENDED CHRIST. They were not men on this earth; they were men in the heavens. By reading the first few chapters of Acts, you will realize that Peter, John and the others with them were resurrected people, new creation people, ascended people, people dwelling in the heavens. They transcended everything on this earth. The high priest, the kings and rulers of the people, the Caesar in Rome were all under their feet. They surpassed the highest rank of man because of the ascended Christ. They were walking in Him. They were living life on the highest plane in this high realm of the Spirit.
Dear ones, how can we live in the heavens? Just by being in Christ. Christ has ascended. Christ is now the highest heaven in this universe. I believe most of my readers understand now what it means to experience the ascended Christ, to daily live out our lives in the victory and triumph of the Son of God, far above the sorrows, strife, sin, problems, limitation, struggles, fears, disappointments, and death of the carnal realm. THIS is Sonship! Sometimes I hear people say, "Oh, I am so worried," or "My, I am quite depressed!" Do you know what that means? It means that they are under the power of death. Whenever you feel depressed, it means that you are under the threatening of death, you are under the power of darkness. You must learn how to appropriate Christ, the ascended Christ, to your circumstances and life situation. You must acknowledge your standing in Christ immediately. You must say, "I do not agree to be depressed or victimized by any kind of situation. I have the ascended Christ; I am in the ascended Christ." When you thus draw from Him you will BE RESURRECTED, you will BE ASCENDED, for the Christ whom you contact in your spirit IS THE CHRIST WHO HAS ASCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS. When you stand in union with Him you are high above the mountains, not in the valleys. You will be in the heavenly places, far above the earth. The problem is that far too often we forget that we are ONE WITH such a Christ who is ascended far above all! We do not appropriate Him. We do not come to Him. We do not contact Him in our spirit. We do not take our stand in union with Him.
When we endeavor to receive the revelation of infinite truth, we are often brought into conflict with that element of human wisdom which asserts itself within US. It is then above all other times that unbelief raises its ugly head to shout aloud that these things cannot be. The wisdom of this world questions in unbelief, "How can a man dwell in heaven while he walks upon earth? How can a man, born in sin and shapen in iniquity, be made to drink of the Spirit of God and live by Him? How can he sit with Christ upon the throne of the universe, daily drawing from the inexhaustible supply of the power, life and wisdom of the ascended Christ, while he performs the mundane business of everyday life? It all sounds so foolish," unbelievers and carnal-minded Christians have told me, and so it does to them, for the Lord Himself declared this very fact to be so when He said, "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). But by the Spirit I can shout, "Praise the Lord! Praise Christ! I am in Christ! I am raised up and made to sit together with Him in higher than all heavens! All my troubles, all my distractions, all my problems, all my hardships, all my weaknesses, all my struggles and all my burdens are under my feet. They have become my footstool. I can rest my problems; I can rest my struggles. The more troubles I have, the more I appropriate the ascended Christ. This is the experience of Christ! This is the reality of living in heaven - N-O-W!
And so in the book of Revelation we view the glory of those events which transpire in heavenly realms and those persons who dwell upon the highest of all planes of life. Those who daily overcome are there for Jesus says, "Him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne," the realm of His triumphant power and dominion. The Church, washed and cleansed from every spot and wrinkle, is there, for we read, "And there appeared a great wonder in HEAVEN; a woman (the Church) clothed with the sun..." (Rev. 12:1). The overcoming Sons of God are there, as it is written, "And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. And I heard a loud voice in HEAVEN saying, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down... and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony... therefore REJOICE YOU HEAVENS, and YOU THAT DWELL IN THEM" (Rev. 12:5,10-12). The Bride of Christ is there, for "I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God OUT OF HEAVEN, prepared as a Bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:2). But none who dwell in Babylon are there, for the cry goes forth, "Rejoice over her, HEAVEN, and holy apostles and prophets; for God has avenged you on her" (Rev. 18:20). No, beloved, none of these wonders were wrought out somewhere ten trillion miles beyond the Milky Way, these are PRESENT REALITIES fulfilled in those who dwell far above the noise and strife of the carnal realm by WALKING IN THE SPIRIT.
In contrast with this, the EARTH is the symbol of yet a third realm, a realm higher than the sea, but lower than heaven, an in-between realm which at its highest peak kisses heaven, and at its lowest level embraces the sea, yet, in the true sense is, of itself, neither heavenly nor degenerate. The sea, as we have seen, comprises the masses of restless, surging, sinning, warring men who live only and completely after the unrestrained desires of the flesh, while heaven comprises those seated in the ascended Christ who walk only and completely after the Spirit. Those that "dwell upon the earth" are a moral class, religious folk, with many upright citizens of the community and church-going Christian people in their ranks; but these, while not overtly wicked, are not spiritual either, but in most aspects of their daily lives "mind earthly things". We shall pursue this thought in more detail in our next article.
THE BEAST OUT OF THE SEA
"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 name of blasphemy" (Rev. 13:1). In the thirteenth chapter of Revelation the awesome prophecy is given of two beasts terrible in power and strength that dominate the inhabitants of the earth and make war with the saints. To the word "beast" must be assigned in both cases it fullest and most pregnant sense. The word is translated from the Greek "therion" meaning a "wild beast" -strong, fierce, dangerous, ravenous, raging, vicious, venemous and cruel.
To understand how John uses the word "beast" in Rev. 13:1, we must note how the word "beast" is used elsewhere in the Scriptures in a similar manner and under similar circumstances. The description of these "beasts" carries us back to the prophecies of Daniel where we find the statement, "I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven brake forth upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion... And behold another beast, a second, like unto a bear... and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard... the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly... and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns" (Dan. 7:2-7).
In this marvelous prophecy, the sea swept by strong winds from every point of the compass, until the opposing forces rush upon one another, mingle in wild confusion, send up their spray into the air, and then, dark with the reflection of the clouds above and turbid with sand, exhaust themselves with one long, sullen roar upon the beach as the wild, ravenous beasts lumber up out of the sea to stalk cruelly across the earth. A "beast" in prophetic language is a TYRANNICAL IDOLATROUS EMPIRE, and from Daniel's own words in his book, and as confirmed by history, we know that the four beasts Daniel mentions are four great world empires which had a distinct control upon Israel - the people of God!
The first of these four beasts was Babylon, who became a world empire in 606 B.C. when she conquered Egypt. Daniel calls her a beast, like a lion. The second beast or world empire, described as being like a bear, was the Media-Persian empire (Dan. 8:20). The Media-Persian empire conquered the Babylonian empire about 539 B.C. and ruled until 331 B.C. The third beast prophesied abou-t by Daniel was Alexander the Great's Greek empire when, in 331 B.C., he conquered the Persians. As prophesied in the eighth chapter of Daniel, Alexander's Greek empire disintegrated and powers from within, four Generals of Alexander, took over the empire and divided it into four kingdoms. They lasted until about 31 B.C. when the Romans conquered the last of these four powers. It was then that Rome became the fourth beast and the greatest world power to that date. The historical development of these four world empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, outlining the fulfillment of these prophetic Scriptures in Daniel, are readily available. History shows the prophetic phrase, "coming up out of the sea" has reference to empires, or organized kingdoms being made up from godless people, and heathenish laws and customs of many different countries. The government of man, the bestial system of this world, becomes most "brutish" when man is severed from God, in whose image he was first made, which image is realized in the man Christ Jesus. Thus, the Kingdom of God and of Christ is NEVER represented under the image of a "beast", nor as coming up from the sea, but as cut out of a high mountain and coming down from God out of heaven!
Notice that this beast contains some of the characteristics of the beasts in Daniel chapter seven. "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" (Rev. 13:2). This is a composite "beast", made up of COMPONENTS which are listed in Rev. 13:1-3 and 17:7-15. IT IS A COMPLEX CREATURE! It is not one man; it is not one man's government; it is not one church; and, most assuredly, it is not a giant computer! According to the Scriptures it is "mountains" (nations), "kings", "kingdoms", etc. This picture presents a composite "beast", made up of many anti-Christ governments, rulers, kings, and kingdoms which we can trace down through history, as they have had their turn at world power. The portrayed contrast is MAN'S GOVERNMENT against GOD'S GOVERNMENT, the bestial system of this world as opposed to the Lamb and His followers upon Mount Zion. Man's government follows the spirit and nature and ways of THE FLESH while God's government follows the spirit and nature and ways of THE LAMB. These two systems are opposed to each other; man's way... and God's way!
This beast with seven heads has long ruled over the inhabitants of the earth. The bestial system first made its appearance in the Garden of Eden. Our eyes behold its presence with the understanding of these words: "Now the serpent was more subtle than ANY BEAST of the field which the Lord God had made" (Gen. 3:1). These words tell us that there was not only a beast (the serpent) in the earth in that hour, but there was a beastly spirit and a beastly system already waiting to enforce it dominion upon Adam and his Garden. Of all the bestial kingdom "the serpent was more subtle than any BEAST of the field..." The serpent was called a BEAST, and was not dwelling alone, but was the most subtle of the whole bestial realm, the great dictator of the bestial kingdom. He still is. In the book of Revelation, the subtle little serpent has increased in stature to become a dragon, and of the beast that comes up out of the sea it is stated, "And the DRAGON gave him his power and his seat, and great authority." This same serpent said to the last Adam, "All these things (all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them) will I give You, if You wilt fall down and worship me!" (Mat. 4:8-10). The first Adam, made in the image and likeness of God, given dominion in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, exchanged that blessed realm for the grime and dust and filth and sorrow of the bestial kingdom.
It is not difficult to see the fruit of man's enslavement by the bestial system inasmuch as it is opposed to God, substituting the human for the divine, the flesh for the spirit, the seen for the unseen, the temporal for the eternal. It is the spirit of the world of which Paul writes, "We received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God," of which James speaks when he says, "Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God," and in regard to which John exhorts, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." This bestial system, in short, is the "cosmos", the world system of which our Lord said that the devil was its prince, which He told His disciples He had overcome, and in regard to which He prayed in His Gethsemane prayer, "I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them out of the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
As a dear brother said a number of years ago, "Seldom, indeed, will it be that a Christian will admit that he is a lover of the world; yet our Saviour said, 'For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also' (Mat. 6:21). Prayerful consideration of this text might be a disconcerting revelation to many a soul. Where do our thoughts remain the longest? What do we talk of most? What do we do in our spare time? Why do God's people love the world so fondly that they must be told, 'Love not the world?' With great heaviness of heart we confess that at the present time it is difficult to tell where the church system ends and the world system begins. The church system of our day is neither separate nor removed from the world. Christians, alas, are deeply engrossed in the world; each with open arms embraces the other because they are of the same spirit. The methods of the world are the methods of the church system; the sins of the world are rampant in the church system. Both are lovers of wealth. Both are lovers of pleasure. Divorce and remarriage are rampant among both. Both love to be entertained. The spirit displayed at Belshazzars ungodly feast when the vessels of the Lord were dragged into the drunken orgy of the king is the exact spirit of this present evil hour, when light is mixed with darkness, flesh is mingled with Spirit, the harlot church systems walk hand in hand with those who profess to be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues, judgment smiles on error and disobedience, and lips that take God's name in vain shamelessly lift their voices with those who praise the Lord. This is not the Spirit of God! Have no part wi th them; neither bid them God-speed, for he that bids them God-speed is partaker of his evil deed (II Jn. 10-11)."
THE SEVEN HEADS
To further develop this theme let us notice particularly that as this beastly world system developed in the earth it was formed with seven heads, or SEVEN SPECIFIC ORGANIZED MANIFESTATIONS. "Seven heads" -a terrible kind of perfection, for it has "upon its heads names of blasphemy".
The seven heads are the seven world empires of the bestial system by which the people of God have been opposed, persecuted, and tried. The oldest persecuting power in Bible history is Egypt. Historically, Egypt was the first of the great world empires developed by man, and like the others, totally idolatrous. Thousands of years ago, Egypt was united under the rule of a powerful king whose name was Menes. He built his capital in the Nile delta, and called it Memphis. After Menes united Egypt, the people were ruled by many different dynasties. The Egyptians worshipped many gods, and built many temples to honor them. The most important god was Ra, the sun god. The next god of importance was Osiris, god of the dead. The god of the Nile was worshipped, and there were such other gods as the lion god, the hippopotamus god, the turtle god, and the frog god. The Pharaoh himself was thought to be a god, and the people worshipped him as a divine being. Then, about 3,500 years ago, Egypt became a warlike nation and began to conquer distant lands, becoming a mighty empire.
It was during this period of the Egyptian empire that they became the cruel oppressors of God's people, Israel. God raised up a deliverer in the person of Moses, and said to him, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them" (Ex. 3:7-8). The Lord sent Moses and equipped him with such power and authority in the Spirit that he was to Pharaoh even "as God." Many and dreadful and great were the signs and wonders which were wrought by his hand, so that Egypt became utterly wasted at the hands of a God of judgment. One by one the plagues fell upon the land; and time and again Pharaoh promised to let the people go, only to harden his heart when the plague was lifted. Finally God declared His judgment upon the firstborn of all the land of Egypt - and then Egypt was literally "glad" to see the people depart, so dreadful and far-reaching was the destruction of the Almighty. The mighty plagues sent upon Egypt serve in Revelation as a wonderful type of the plagues of God's refining judgments sent upon the mystical "Egypt" or "Babylon" -the bestial spirit and system reigning in our earth and in our very own hearts in this our day!
The first head of the bestial system was the tyrannical and idolatrous empire of Egypt. The second was Assyria, followed by Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, Rome, and finally by that power, wider than the Roman, which John saw was about to rage during the Church age against the simplicity, purity, holiness, spirituality, power and unworldliness of Christ's little flock. Each of these is a "head". Each directly opposed, persecuted, and tried the saints of God. "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them" (Rev. 13:7). Taken together, they supply what is absolutely essential to a correct understanding of the symbol the idea of the completeness of the bestial system of this world.
THE HEAD THAT WAS WOUNDED AND HEALED
The seven heads, therefore, are the completeness of the bestial system in its opposition to the people of God. The Roman head is the one "wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed" (Rev. 13:3). The word "wounded" is the same word in the Greek that is translated "slain" in reference to the Lamb: "And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne stood a Lamb as it had been SLAIN" (Rev. 5:6). The Greek word is "sphazo" meaning "slaughtered". The head of the beast had not been merely wounded or smitten, it had been "slaughtered unto death". And it was not merely his "deadly wound", but it was the "stroke of his death" that had been healed. There had been actual death and resurrection from death - the contrast and travesty of that death and resurrection which had befallen the Lamb of God slaughtered and raised again! Of the bestial world system Jesus said, "In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer: I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD" (Jn. 16:33). And of the dragon who gives power unto the beastial system Jesus declared, "The prince (evil genius, ruler) of world is coming. And he has no claim on Me - he has nothing in common with Me, there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, he has no power over Me" (Jn. 14:30, Amplified).
Jesus did not come to modify the world system; He came to destroy it. Daniel makes this very clear. "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and it shall BREAK IN PIECES AND CONSUME ALL THESE KINGDOMS, and it shall stand forever" (Dan. 2:44). The Redeemer of the world came, not to wound or weaken the prince of this world only, but to "bring him to naught" (Heb. 2:14). He came to subdue him, to overcome him, destroying his dominion and crushing his power. This is the work which the Lord Jesus came to perform - to destroy the kingdom of Satan in the world, and to set up another kingdom in its place, subduing all things unto Himself.
Jesus came into the world in the time of the Roman empire. He was crucified on a Roman cross, pierced with a Roman spear, and sealed in His sepulcher under a Roman seal. But praise God! He burst the bands of death, shattered the seal of mighty Rome, and arose the Conquering Christ. And not only that - He ascended victor over all the powers of darkness, having brought to naught the prince of this world, having brought in eternal redemption for a lost world and redeemed all things back unto Himself. He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high and poured out upon the first few citizens of His Kingdom the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Kingdom of God was birthed, and gathered from Jew and Gentile alike a vast multitude into its bosom. What a flood of light and glory and power fell upon the world in the ministry of the humble followers of the Lamb!
And what glorious days those were! How God blessed His people! Mighty signs and wonders were performed as God confirmed His Word with signs following. The Word of God, anointed by the Holy Spirit, swept the world like a prairie fire. It encircled the mountains and crossed the oceans. It made kings to tremble and tyrants to fear. It was said of those early Christians that they had turned the world upside down! - so powerful was their message and spirit. In spite of persecution, in spite of untold thousands of saints impaled upon crosses, burnt at the stake, and fed to hungry lions to the thunderous applause of wild spectators, it grew and multiplied, for God dwelt mightily in the midst of His people. The knowledge of the glory of the Lord covered the earth as the waters cover the sea. Paganism fell. The mighty Roman empire shut up its idol temples, sheathed its persecuting sword, and sat down as a disciple at the feet of Christ and His apostles. The raging, ravenous beast had been slain, the head was wounded unto death. The sword by which the deadly wound came was the sword of the WORD OF GOD in the mouths and lives of His people. The wound to that system was so deadly that for a time it appeared it would never rise again.
But John saw the deadly wound healed, and all the world wondered after the beast. Revived the beast became stronger than ever so that "they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?" (Rev. 13:4). My understanding of great spiritual matters is often woefully small. Nevertheless, it is my deep conviction that the seventh head of this beast represents Rome as its power is continued under the Papacy, the succession of Roman Pontiffs, the line of tiara-crowned monarchs who ranked as temporal sovereigns, for it is a fact that for more than twelve centuries ecclesiastical Rome exercised as much power over Europe and the whole world as did ever the pagan Caesars. It is generally known by all informed persons that for centuries after the fall of the Roman empire the popes ruled over the kings of Europe, setting up what kings they would and putting down whom they would, casting into prison and putting to death all who opposed them, and exalting whom they would, obliging them to prostrate themselves before him, to kiss his toe, to hold his stirrup, to wait bare-footed at his gate, as Hildebrand or Gregory VII did to Henry IV, treading even upon the neck, as Alexander III did to Frederic I, and kicking off the imperial crown with his foot, as Celistin did to Henry VI. This evil condition continues with variations to this day. Ask any historian what world-wide power succeeded Rome Pagan, and he will answer at once, "Rome Papal". Without doubt the civil and temporal power of the popes constitutes this last and most important of the "heads" of the bestial system.
When Imperial Rome fell, Papal Rome rose. In the selection of Rome as the seat of its empire, the Papacy secured enormous prestige. Sitting in the seat which the masters of the world had so long occupied, the Papacy appeared the rightful heir of their power. The Pontiffs were perpetually reminding the world that they were the successors of the Caesars, that the two Romes were linked by an inseparable bond, and that to the latter had descended the heritage of glory and dominion acquired by the former. The Pontiffs also claimed to be the successors of the apostles. As the successor of Peter, the pope was greater, than as the successor of Caesar. The one made him a king, the other made him king of kings; the one gave him the power of the sword, the other invested him with the still more sacred keys to the Kingdom of God. Hear now the words of the formula of investiture with the Papal tiara: "Receive this triple crown, and know that you art the father of princes, THE KING AND RULER OF THE WORLD."
When the Church was allied with the State; when Christianity became the religion of the court and of the fashionable classes, the Church was not only impregnated with the errors of pagan philosophy, but it adopted many of the ceremonies and rituals of the pagan worship. The churches became as imposing as the old temples of idolatry. Festivals became frequent and imposing. Veneration of martyrs ripened into the introduction of images, a future source of popular idolatry. Christianity was emblazoned with pompous ceremonies. Superstition exalted the mother of our Lord to practically deification, an object of worship. Corruptions, heresies, abominable practices abounded. The teachings of Christ were forgotten, and the paganized teachings of the Church put in their place. It became a sin to believe the truth and serve the living God, yea, it was soon esteemed the worst of crimes to follow the Lord only and wholly. The humble and true saints were persecuted. In streams, ay! in rivers, their blood was shed, till the professing Church of Christ became "drunk" on the blood of His true disciples. Millions more martyrs fell under the sword of Papal Rome than were slain by the power of the Pagan empire.
The head of this great Apostasy put himself in the place of Christ as head of the Church and Caesar as head of the empire. He wore a triple crown, and claimed dominion in heaven, earth, and hell; power to pardon sins on earth, to loose from pains in hell, and to canonize in heaven; he carried two swords, to mark his temporal and spiritual government; and arrogated to himself divine attributes and authority. He spurned the sword of the Spirit, and, grasping the arm of the empire, turned its carnal weapons with relentless fury upon every weaker opponent that stood in the way of his ambitions.
Christ, contrary to popular opinion, is not a Person, but a great body of persons. In fact the word "Christ" is itself not a true translation of the original. It is not a proper name, but should be rendered "the anointed". And in I Cor. 12 :12 we find just what "the anointed" really is. It tells us, that as our natural body is but one body composed of many members, "SO ALSO IS THE ANOINTED". Christ, or the anointed then, is a hugh company composed of anointed Sons of God "for by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (I Cor. 12:13). And this body or company which IS CHRIST, has a HEAD, the chief Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
Even so the antichrist is a body composed of many members. The company which is Christ is the true Church: the antichrist is the apostate Church, that which is "anti", or "opposed to", or "instead of" the true. Furthermore, as the true church is ruled by the New Jerusalem, so the false Church is ruled by "that great city Babylon" (Rev. 18:10-24). And as the true Church has a King, the chief Christ, so antichrist has a king, the chief antichrist. And this chief antichrist is also called in the Word, the king of Babylon. Babylon means confusion, and this peculiarly expresses the spiritual chaos of apostates (Isa. 24:10). The king of Babylon is then really the king of confusion.
In fact, to fully understand the mystical Babylon of the last days, we have to go back and consider the literal Babylon of old, which was a type of the mystical Babylon. The Babylon of old, we find, was a kingdom ruled over by a king who was not only head of their political structure, but was also the head of their false religious system. Therefore mystical Babylon also must have a king, or political head, who also is its religious leader. Mystery Babylon has a king, one who is also an archdeceiver, the chief among all the antichrists. He is, or was, an earthly sovereign, and at the same time was and is the spiritual head of the great apostasy. And no kingdom exists without its king. But the vast multitudes of Christians, who are carried away by the deceptive doctrines of the antichrist, have MISSED IT ALL. They know nothing of the day in which they live, nor of what has transpired, nor of what is transpiring before their very eyes, because they are imbued with the spirit of the same Babylonish kingdom. In one way or another, they are subjects of this king, in that they have taken the mark of this kingdom by believing and propagating its doctrines, observing its forms and ceremonies, celebrating its holy days, and glorying in its shame. And above all, most Christians today are one with the great antichrist in pointing the finger of accusation at some fictitious person who is supposed to appear at some yet future time TO BE THE ANTICHRIST! It is high time for Christians to awake!
It is an exasperating but undeniable fact that we in our day see the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Canada, the heads of European governments, the Queen of England, even high authorities from Communist Russia, and, saddest of all, leading evangelists and leaders of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, making their journey to Rome to visit and receive the blessing of the Roman pope. When the pope visits the United States, Brazil, Poland, England and other countries, sought after and applauded by the millions of adoring followers, captivating millions more who cling with rapt attention to his form on the television screen, is it not astoundingly clear that even in our day the whole world "wonders after the beast" and the reverent cry is whispered from awe-stricken hearts, "Who is like unto the beast?"
Little wonder that the whole creation yet waits and groans for the manifestation of the Sons of God! Ah, my friends, I can tell you by the Word of the Lord that our God shall move again. He shall come, He shall move in and through His body, the enChristed ones, in the fullness of the power and glory and authority of which His coming at Pentecost was but the firstfruits! "And the kingdom, the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heavens SHALL BE GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE OF THE SAINTS OF THE MOST HIGH; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom and ALL DOMINIONS shall serve and obey them. This was the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly upset me and my face changed color; but I kept the matter in my mind" (Dan. 7:27,28, Goodspeed).
I am indebted to another for the inspiring words with which I am led to close this article. "The entire dispensation of grace (Eph. 3:2) has been set aside, not in the vain and deceptive hope of the conversion of the world, as the preachers are always imagining, but for the distinct purpose of "calling out a people for His name" (Acts 15:13-18). These called out and elect saints, who have been in preparation for two thousand years, are the body of Christ, the Sons of God, whom God has chosen and ordained to sit with Him in His throne. They are the fullness and completeness of Him who everywhere fills the universe with Himself.
"In the blindness of Church tradition, the preachers have taught the people that the hope of creation is to die and go to heaven or go to glory by medium of the rapture, but anyone studying God's Word with care will find that heaven is not the theme of the Old Testament and it is not the theme of the New Testament. In fact, there is a noticeable absence of any teaching on the subject. The theme of both Old and New Testaments is the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom as literal as that of Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, or Caesar. The difference is that those men were merely mortal men, possessed with carnal minds, but the glory that excels in the Kingdom of God is that the King is not carnal, but spiritual; not mortal, but immortal; not passing, but permanent; not of time, but of eternity. His sharp, two-edged sword will not be stained with the blood of His enemies. It is instead that same sharp, two-edged sword which is the WORD OF GOD. With it and by its transforming power He will smite the nations, not in the bloody conflict and seething hate of war, but as He smote the people at Pentecost, bringing them to repentance and the joy of salvation. He will pierce the consciences of the people and cause them to cry, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' He will prick them as Saul of Tarsus was pricked, and He will save them as he was saved. This is the way His righteous sword is wielded. It kills only to make alive and wounds only to heal. It kills only those things that should die and makes alive the things that should live. Thus will He rule the world through His body of Sons, with an iron rod - the rod of righteous judgment and the scepter of spiritual power and transforming grace."
Writings in This Series: