Now, with this little background of the contenders, let us look closer at the biblical setting for the last decisive engagement in the great controversy. Please note that the beast of Revelation 13 symbolizes a gigantic antichrist power that attempts to displace God entirely. Here is the description of that power in the language of Revelation 13:17: "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. 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. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon that 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? 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. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 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."
We cannot fail to see here an unprecedented scale of opposition to God and those who follow Him. Later in this same chapter, we read that this beast power will exercise so much influence over the earth, that it causes men to receive a mark in their foreheads or hands (Revelation 13:16). Finally, those who have the mark will suffer the terrible wrath of God as described in Revelation 14:9, 10. The wrath of God is further defined in Revelation 15:1 in these words, "Seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God."
The awful nature of those plagues and the extreme sufferings they visit upon those who receive the mark of the beast are fully revealed in the sixteenth chapter of Revelation. We will not dwell on them at this point in detail, but let us remind ourselves again that this issue will involve eternal life or death for all. How earnestly should we seek to understand who the beast represents and how we might avoid that mark! There must be no guesswork or speculation on this vital subject. We must know exactly where the danger lies and how to avoid it.
The average Christian has scarcely even heard about the urgency of this subject. He has not the faintest idea about the beast or his mark, even though his destiny hinges upon the issue. Multitudes of preachers comfort the people in their ignorance of this point. They say, "Don't worry about the beast. It is too complicated to understand. As long as you love the Lord, you will be all right. You can't really know who the beast is." Listen, will God warn us about the fearful danger of this beast—a danger so deadly that it will mean life or death—and then tell us it is impossible to know what it is? Would He say to us, "You will be cast into the fire if you have the mark, but I'm not going to tell you what it is—it's just too bad if you have it"? No, that is not like God. He warns us of a danger that can be avoided. We can know that we are safe from the beast only if we know who the beast is. We can know we are free from the mark only if we know what the mark is.
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