I’m sorry. Every time I think about this subject, or read about someone who has positively identified The Beast, I crack up. Or at least chuckle a little. The reason it’s so humorous is that the methods used for identification, and the results of the methods, are mostly based on personal feelings. Or perhaps what I call newspaper exegesis (interpreting by newspaper headlines). I haven’t seen a result yet that comes from an understanding of the Bible. The best method of identification is right there in black and white. Or black, white and red. Or whatever fruity colors are used in your version.
The Beast is the coming ruler spoken of in the Bible who will sway nearly the whole world to follow his lead. As a token of appreciation, he will cause all who do so to receive a mark on the hand or forehead, without which no one can buy or sell. His helper is the false prophet, one who looks like a lamb and is called the anti-Christ or ‘instead of’ Christ. This helper of The Beast is the one who causes all to receive the mark. These two will be backed by the serpent or dragon, also called the deceiver and Satan. This unholy trinity will unite much of the population in a rebellion against God and His Christ. They will not succeed, but while they have their run there will be much death, destruction and wrath poured out from God. The wrath part is why I think this is still future, though others think it has already happened.
The Beast has been identified as Hitler, or rulers/kings like him. Some have pegged President Obama as The Beast. This is funny to me because as bad as Obama is he isn’t a pimple on the butt of The Beast. Various other leaders from time to time have been sometimes hysterically identified as the Beast. At one time people in the Calvary Chapel denomination along with many others were all excited about a computer in Belgium (early ’80’s) that was called the beast (at the time it could have numbered every person on the planet). Lately some are pointing to a smooth-talking atheist in Greece that has got them worried.
The problem with identifying The Beast comes in when people look right past the obvious. Especially the church. We will look everywhere except in the mirror. We are so blinded by men’s teachings, traditions and philosophies that we don’t recognize an important fact:
The Beast will be just as acceptable to the church as to the general populace.
Yes I know. That will be a shocking statement to those who think that the “church” is taken away in a rapture before all the really bad stuff starts, like a fairy tale princess in a flying pumpkin coach. However, the rapture without question is appended to the resurrection, and that resurrection clearly doesn’t happen till the end of the Tribulation. See our video Whole Bible Prophecy: The Rapture for more explanation on this.
So “the church” will be here during the tribulation. That’s the first boo boo in the whole identification process. There will be many who don’t even realize it at first, and many who will be upset when they find out they’ve been lied to by their leaders.
Some people point to the absence of ‘the church’ in Revelation 4 through about 19 as proof that the church is gone. But here’s a fun fact for you: there is no church in the Bible. At all. It exists only in translations. The ekklesia (the Greek word translated by the English word ‘church’) is simply an assembly or congregation, and is found throughout history in the Word. A group of people. Ekklesia is used of Israel in the Septuagint translation, but isn’t translated as ‘church.’ It is just translated as congregation or assembly. So technically ‘the assembly’ is much different than ‘the church’ and includes all believers everywhere and everywhen. This explains the absence of ‘the church’ in Revelation. Especially the modern church. It was never there in the first place.
The typical church-goer can’t (or will not later) properly identify The Beast because they are not grounded on the Word, do not read it except for a few favorite verses, and refuse to do what it says. Instead they have crafted for themselves a seeker-friendly social gospel that only vaguely resembles anything biblical, with a hippie flower-child Jesus letting everyone behave as they choose. We have leaders telling us that hell doesn’t exist, parts of God’s Word are old and irrelevant, men’s traditions are the new covenant, and sexual immorality is really okay. If this doesn’t sound like “tolerating that woman Jezebel” or allowing the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans (Revelation 1-3) I don’t know what does. The church has watered down the message of God for themselves so much that it isn’t even recognizable as God’s. By and large they have removed the whole nutrition of His Law from the message, and are therefore not grounded on the Rock.
For these reasons and a few others I believe The Beast will look a lot like a mega-church pastor, and teach many of the same things. He will be so very acceptable to the majority of the church because He will look and act just like they do. The church looks the same as the world, acts the same, and believes the same except for a little different Jesus flavoring. The Beast will bridge the (very small) gap between the world and the church very easily.
That might sound hard to some of you. But truth is only hard to the hard-hearted.
It is written that The Beast has blasphemous names on its heads and is given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words (Rev. 13). If you do a comprehensive word study you will find out that blasphemy is, at the bottom, either attributing evil to God’s works or attributing the works of God to evil (Satan, the Beast, or the anti-Christ get the credit instead of God). I think this means The Beast will claim that he is the author of works that are God’s, and will blame God for evil he and his two buddies do and the evil that is in the world in general. Right will be wrong and wrong will be painted as right.
The lack of grounding in the Bible for the majority of self-named Christians will contribute to the acceptance of The Beast. The blasphemy practiced by the Church (calling God’s Law irrelevant for instance) along with sexual immorality (adultery, divorce, fornication, homosexuality) and watered-down teaching from the Balaams, Jezebels and Nicolaitans among us will combine to allow easy acceptance by stone-hearted people.
11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV).
Hey. I’m not saying this. I’m getting it right from the Bible. Read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 1-3 if you don’t believe me. The people described in negative terms there have always been around and always a part of the so-called church. The door that Jesus is standing at and knocking is the door of the church. It’s just that in modern times a greater percentage of wolves in sheep’s clothing are present and the corruption is more prevalent than in the past. See our video The Whole Picture: Who Put the Church in Charge? at http://youtu.be/3dkxJTQCriI for more on this.
A part of identifying The Beast is helped by figuring out who is spoken of in Revelation 17. There we see a woman riding on The Beast who has a name of mystery on her forehead that is “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” She looks pretty, dressed in purple and scarlet (the colors of ruling or royalty), with jewelry to match, but her main claim to fame is sexual immorality and murder of God’s people. She is seated on many waters picturing peoples, multitudes, nations and languages, so this woman is everywhere on earth. She is riding The Beast but he and the kings who give him allegiance (the horns) hate her and destroy her.
The Catholic Church has been identified as mystery religion Babylon, but that is too limited. Catholicism has only been around for about 1,800 years, and has not covered the planet that thoroughly during those centuries. This mystery religion has been around at least since the time of the tower of Babel (Hebrew meaning gate of the deity; Babylon is Greek for the same city/kingdom), which is where we see the record of the first idolatrous behavior (although there was probably much before the flood too). I think it is more likely that this woman is all religion that leads away from God with idolatry, sexual immorality and blasphemy. This includes all paganism, all idolatry, all witchcraft and voodoo and the like. It can even include the church (otherwise Jesus would not be warning the seven churches of the teachings of Balaam, Jezebel, and the Nicolaitans). Idolatry is cheating on God, with or without a statue. The modern church is certainly cheating on God, which will put them right in the same chariot with Babylon on the Beast. The Beast tolerates the false religion for a while, but he wants the first place of worship so he destroys Babylon because she’s in the way. It’s like that movie The Highlander. There can be only one. The Catholic Church certainly is pagan and idolatrous, and part of the mystery religion Babylon, but does not carry the whole burden by itself. There are many other churches and synagogues that are joined to her in immorality.
So identifying The Beast is kind of an exercise in futility for the church. You can’t very well find his hiding place when you’re looking everywhere but in the church building. Inside, this guy will indeed be a ravenous beast, but on the outside he will appear as a fluffy little sheep. He won’t appear to be the big bad wolf that most people are expecting. He will speak beguiling words; words that are close to God’s but just a little bit off at first. Just like the words of most church leaders and followers of today. He will say things that sound good and appeal to our self-seeking pride, and because the average Christian will not be grounded in the Word of God they will be willing to accept him and his instead-of-Christ prophet even to receiving the mark. They will “believe in him” so much they will gladly do whatever he says. They will be enamored of his teachings on sexual immorality, tolerance and unconditional love because these teachings will mirror their own. He will be able to quote the Bible better than most Christians, albeit with his own twisted slant and matching almost word for word the text of many sermons. He will mix science with sorcery and probably claim to be the next evolutionary step for all mankind. The image fashioned by the anti-Christ could very likely be a clone who will speak as the serpent did in the Garden, offering a path to be “like God.”
Believers will need to be filled with the whole of the Word, have patient endurance, reject the teachings of Jezebel and her ilk, and hear what the Spirit says to the congregations that make up the Body. Start tuning your eyes and ears to see Him and listen for His instructions by taking in all of His Words and doing them. Now. While there’s still time. Repent, go through the open door, buy from Him gold refined by fire and white garments to cover the shame of nakedness along with some salve to anoint your eyes. Be zealous and repent.