THERE is no place in all of the Bible, or in history, where truth and error are brought into closer proximity than in Revelation 13:11. "I beheld," said John, "another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon."
What a paradoxical symbol to depict the agelong conflict! And yet no more fitting combination could so accurately focus man's attention upon the final phase of the warfare between tyranny and freedom.
Under a variety of images, the prophetic writers have sought to portray the seductive influence and wicked character of the enemies of liberty. Through a series of prophetic cartoons, Daniel in the Old Testament and John in the New have challenged us to search out the "mystery of iniquity" (2 Mess. 2:7) which Paul says will figure so largely in the winding up of this earth's history.
Pictured as a Lamb
"He had two horns like a lamb." Throughout the book of Revelation, Jesus is pictured as a lamb. John beholds Him first as "a Lamb as it had been slain," "in the midst of the throne," in the very center of the universe, surrounded by "every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea" (Rev. 5:6, 13); and second, as the returning Lamb "that sitteth on the throne" "on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" from whom the wicked multitudes flee in their self-condemning guilt (Rev. 6:16; Matt. 26:64). In one or the other of these two settings we see Him again and again in John's "Revelation of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:1).
"He spake as a dragon." John clearly identifies the dragon as "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world" (Rev. 12:9). We find him lifting his ugly head time after time as the great conflict between truth and error is delineated by John.
Life Only a Puzzle
Apart from an understanding of this fundamental doctrine of the Bible, history does not make sense, and the plan of salvation is foolishness and folly. Unless we acknowledge with the apostle Paul that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, . . . against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12, margin), life is only a puzzle and man merely a shadow on the darkening landscape of time; and H. G. Wells is right when he says, "The stars in their courses have turned against man and he has to give place to some other animal better adapted to face the fate that closes in."—Quoted in "Mind at the End of Its Tether," The Chicago Sun, Nov. 7, 1945.
Satan Poses as Ambassador
The dragon, "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan," who disappears from heaven but reappears on the earth, is always pictured as an avowed foe of the Lamb, but not always an open enemy of the truth. He whom Jesus saw "as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18) usually poses as an ambassador from God rather than as the traitor that was turned out of heaven. He works his way into the highest places of worship, where he may more subtly pervert truth into error and more authoritatively palm off the counterfeit for the genuine.
Paul categorically states, "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). Posing as an apostle of Christ, he chooses men to represent him in civil and religious offices who have been deceived into believing that they represent the Lord of heaven. Transforming unconverted men into "ministers of righteousness," he has founded great systems of government and religion in the name of Christ, systems that have deceived multitudes into believing they were promoting freedom only to discover too late they had been used as instruments of tyranny.
Revelation Given to Unmask Satan
The last book of the Bible, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ," focusing our attention upon the final conflict, has been given to unmask Satan by uncovering the underlying principle of an insidious philosophy that has inspired dictatorships and authoritarianism through the ages.
Satan would lead us to believe that all worship is good; that all forms of religion are of God, shaded in various ways, to meet the varying temperaments of men. Even the most "primitive" forms of heathen worship, it is often taught these days, have their benefits for the souls of men; all render a service to the basic needs of the human family.
But there is no such teaching in the Scriptures. Revelation 13:3, 4 reveals that multitudes, thinking they were worshiping God, actually worshiped Satan at the false shrine of a counterfeit system of religion: "And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast."
"In Vain They Do Worship"
Jesus acknowledged that there are various ways that men may worship Him, but notice His conclusion: "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9). They think they are worshiping Christ, but He says it is in vain. And the evil of vain worship is often its intolerance and persecution of those who would choose to worship differently.
Early in the history of man we observe the operation of this principle. Two religious men, both worshipers of God, sons of Adam and Eve, present themselves at the altar, each with his offering. Cain worships according to his own views but Abel follows the instruction given by God. Abel's humility and submission to the divine will found acceptance with the Lord, "but for Cain and his offering he had no regard." Though Cain could find no justification for his adaptation of divine revelation, he persisted in his own perversion of true worship and established the pattern of history. "Cain said to Abel his brother, let us go out to the field.' And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him" (Gen. 4:3-8, R.S.V.).
This principle of intolerance, rising up out of counterfeit and apostate systems of religion, Jesus spoke of when He said, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2).
Any zealous departure from a "Thus saith the Lord," opens the way for Satan to take possession of the mind. Thus controlled, one may become an agent of the enemy of God and man and oppose what He seeks to build up. None other than the apostle Paul acknowledges of his religious experience before his conversion, "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities" (Acts 26:9-11).
It is Satan's avowed purpose to get men to violate the eternal principles of righteousness. What he cannot accomplish through the promotion of pride or by alluring enticements, degrading rites, or demoralizing habits, he seeks to achieve through force and tyranny. It is his strategy to gain entrance into the hearts of leaders of church and state and weld them into an unholy alliance so as to enforce his will upon the masses by threat, intimidation, and abuse.
Those who firmly stand true to principle stir the depths of the dragon's wrath, and he sets out to exterminate them. So has it been through the centuries. So shall it be in the last remnant of time. "The dragon was wroth with the woman [the church], and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17).
(To be continued)