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The Beast That Was, and Is Not, and Yet Is

by Tom Stewart
March 27, 2002

"The Beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the Bottomless Pit, and go into perdition: 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"
(Revelation 17:8).

It is understandable that the subject of the Antichrist would arouse our attention, for even the writer of the Book of Revelation-- the Apostle John-- did find the manifestation of the harlot system of the Beast, a source of amazement. "And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the Saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration" (Revelation 17:6). However, many of the Biblical descriptions of the Antichrist are purposely couched in highly symbolic and acrostic language that "seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them" (Mark 4:12). Why possibly withhold salvation and hide understanding from the many that will peruse the difficult words of the Revelation in the ensuing millennia? The Most High God has deemed it unwise to reward the casual and chance hearing of His prophecies with the same enlightenment as those who "do hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matthew 5:6). Though repentance at the time of death may be possible, e.g., Jesus told the penitent thief on the adjacent cross, "To day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43), the Almighty has warned us not to rely upon harvesting the benefits of the present world system, while expecting to repent in time to experience the joys of Heaven. "Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14). Even the Saviour is not interested in saving everyone at all times, for Jesus said, "He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of Eternal Damnation" (Mark 3:29). For this reason, understanding of the cryptic language of the Apocalypse is withheld from the Truly Unsubmissive to prevent its illicit use for temporary and self-centered purposes. Simon the Sorcerer attempted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit for selfish gain, but was denied the blessing, i.e., "18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:18-20). Understanding is only distributed by the Holy Spirit to the willing hearer, i.e., "he that hath an ear" (Revelation 2:7), on a need-to-know basis. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the Doctrine" (John 7:17).

Who Is the Beast That Was, and Is Not, and Yet Is?

(1) Satan is the Beast that "was" (17:8), and as Apollyon, he but again "shall ascend out of the Bottomless Pit" (17:8). This Beelzebub (Matthew 10:25), the so-called Lord of the Flies-- "the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baalzebub [Hebrew, lord of the fly] the god of Ekron?" (2Kings 1:3)-- though he is as a "roaring lion, [that] walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1Peter 5:8) and as a "serpent" (Genesis 3:4) that did "bruise [the] heel" (3:15) of the Son of Man on the Cross of Calvary, when Christ was "wounded for our transgressions [and] was bruised for our iniquities" (Isaiah 53:5), at that time the LORD Our Substitute did mortally "bruise [the] head" (Genesis 3:15) of Satan, the creaturely Beast. This leaves the wild Beast in a wounded and raging condition, requiring the meek Saints to "submit [themselves] to God [and to] resist the Devil [knowing that only then] he will flee from you" (James 4:7), until he shall finally "go into perdition" (Revelation 17:8). Perdition is the Greek word apoleia, meaning destruction and utter ruin, which is the exquisite destruction designed by the Almighty to divorce the Devil from interfering with the happiness of the Godly, while preventing Satan's eternal soul from experiencing anything but the "blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 13).

(2) The Antichrist is the Beast that
"is not" (17:8)-- at least, at the time of the writing of the Apocalypse. This second person in the Trinity of Evil is the Counterfeit Christ that triumphantly enters the Tribulation Week as a Messiah-like peacemaker, speaking "great swelling words" (Jude 16), to "confirm the covenant with many [but not with all, i.e., the recently awakened Tribulation Saints] for one week" (Daniel 9:27). The character of the Antichrist can be seen in the first four Seal Judgments. He will imitate Christ the Conqueror-- Who "ascended on high... [and] led captivity captive... [to give] gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also" (Psalm 68:18)-- when he, the arch Son of Satan, goes forth "conquering, and to conquer" (Revelation 6:2) in the First Seal Judgment, gaining for himself world domination through diplomacy. Antichrist the Little Horn (Daniel 7:8) will mimic Christ the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) in the Second Seal Judgment, when he takes True "Peace from the Earth... [with] a great sword" (Revelation 6:4), no doubt to establish the peace of no further opposition to himself. Antichrist the Lawless One-- "then shall that Wicked [literally, the Lawless One] be revealed" (2Thessalonians 2:8)-- will copy the Abundant Christ-- Whose rain falls "on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45)-- in the Third Seal Judgment, when Antichrist's policies and leadership introduce the world to the "black horse" (Revelation 6:5) of famine, sharing the abundance of his administration. In the Fourth Seal Judgment, the Man of Sin (2Thessalonians 2:3) will bless the world with "Death, and Hell" (6:8) in his abortive attempt to counterfeit for his people the life that comes only from Christ the Life (John 14:6).

(3) The Antichrist system of the world, i.e., the religious, political, economic, and social power structure of the world, is the Beast that
"yet is" (17:8). We are informed through the Apostles John's First Epistle that even in the First Century there were "many antichrists" (1John 2:18). This system of antichrists has spanned the ages of humankind, for the human antithesis of God has always been the Antichrist. "The fool [Hebrew, nabal-- signifying the Arch Fool, Antichrist] hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1). The world system that spawns the Antichrist has always been at enmity with the Saints-- only variously employing the crafty means of Vanity Fair Friendship to confuse and disarm unwary Pilgrims. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). Why does the Antichrist system of the world have such animosity to the Holy Jehovah? "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Until the miracle of the New Birth begets a renewed heart and mind in the life of one of Satan's former serfs, the Royal Law of Love will be odious; and, the Antichrist world system will continue to persuade its benighted masses of the indispensability, and yea further, of the supreme good of self-love-- without the slightest hint of our overpowering necessity of seeking, trusting, loving, and obeying the Living God. "Thou art worthy, O LORD, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11).

The most profound understanding of the elements of prophecy is based upon the simplicity of faith in Christ. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3). Willingness to follow and obey Christ wherever He leads and directs is necessary for Him to manifest the "Spirit of Prophecy" (Revelation 19:10) to us. "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21). Even if we were to read the words of explanation of any Biblical prophecy, what value would it be to us or the Kingdom of God, if we did not have a heart of loving obedience to the LORD Jesus Christ? "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). For this reason, the reader is implored to "examine yourselves, whether ye be in the Faith" (2Corinthians 13:5). You are invited to read "Do You Really Want to Be a Christian?" to aid you in this examination. May the "Grace of the LORD Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all" (13:14).


Tom Stewart

Related Topic:

Commentary on the BOOK of REVELATION
Chapter 17: Revealing the Mystery of Babylon the Great and the Beast ---New Window
by Tom Stewart
"Both Chapter 17 and the following chapter describe the destruction of "Babylon the Great" (17:5), i.e., "I will shew unto thee the judgment of the Great Whore" (17:1); but, this chapter sets the stage for that destruction by revealing to us the identities of both Babylon the Great and the Beast, i.e., "I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the Beast that carrieth her" (17:7). Many commentators agree that ecclesiastical, political, and economic Babylon are described in this pair of chapters. However, the difficulty of interpreting the two chapters lies in distinguishing the spheres of influence of both the Great Whore and the Antichrist, since they overlap and are intertwined through their spiritual fornication. "Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts" (Nahum 3:4). That their conduct is illicit, can be seen through the name given by the Holy Spirit to Babylon the Great, i.e., the "Great Whore [Greek, porne, also translated as harlot]" (17:1). "17 There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. 18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God" (Deuteronomy 23:17-18)."

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