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February 24, 2021 12:01 am
Who is the Beast identified in the book of Revelation? Has he already come, or should we still expect him? Today, R.C. Sproul points to a historical figure who fits the description right down to the name.
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Today on Renewing Your Mind because of the religious activity that surrounds this figure of the beast and the Antichrist. Some have argued historically that the antichrist will be some kind of a clergy person who will seek to be a false Christ or a substitute for Christ antichrist is prophesied both in the epistles in the book of Revelation we know about in this perplexing terrifying and were given only a few clues to try and figure out who he really is today on Renewing Your Mind. Dr. I see scroll explores the facts to help calm her fears, and provide deeper insight into what we can expect when Jesus returns. In looking at the mysterious figure of the Antichrist in our last session we considered New Testament teaching. In John's epistle regarding antichrist, as well as Paul's treatment of the man of lawlessness for the man of sin in second Thessalonians. And as I mentioned at that time we see a interrelatedness between the concept of the Antichrist. The man of lawlessness, and the beast that is described in the book of Revelation and today were going to turn our attention to the book of Revelation and its teaching regarding the beast. It's found in chapter 13 of Revelation beginning in verse one we read this that I stood on the sand of the sea and I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and 10 horns, and on his horns 10 crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name of the beast which I saw was like a leopard's feet were like the feet of a bear's mouth like the mouth of a lion.
The dragon gave him his power, his throne and great authority. And I saw one of the heads as if it had been mortally wounded, but his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast so they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, who is like the beast who is able to make war with him and he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies was given authority to continue for 42 months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name's tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. Authority was given him over every tribe termination. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Then we go on to read more about the beast in verse 11 and I saw another beast coming out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon and he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs that even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling them who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and live. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast and the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed because it's all small, great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name here is wisdom.
Here is this cryptic mysterious message. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.
His number is 666 now the first thing we understand about the pieces that he rises up out of the sea and he is described as having 10 heads, and all these crowns and all that sort of thing and we saw earlier that there were references to the one who was alive, who was a king at this time. In chapter 13 that we identified with the Emperor Nero of the Roman empire. Now if we look at the imagery and the military power of this beast that comes out of the sea that has the seven heads and so on.
Most scholars would grant that this is obviously a reference to the military power of Rome, and that the seven heads refer to the seven mountains or the seven hills, one of the ancient references that we find in the literary sources of antiquity to the city of Rome is that Rome was commonly called the septa monitoring him or simply the seven mountains because it was established on seven hills, but out of this Roman empire or Roman military power is this mysterious figure of the beast who does all these wicked things and who is known by this strange and cryptic number 666 which is called the mark of the beast now again throughout church history people have sought to give clear identification to the beast who was known by the number 666 or to the beast as the antichrist, and again we see the vacillation between the power of the institution.
In this case, perhaps the Roman government and the power of an institution being embodied in a single person like a king and emperor or some other representative person because of the religious activity that surrounds this figure of the beast and the Antichrist. Some have argued historically that the antichrist will be some kind of a clergy person or a famous religious person who will seek to be a false Christ or a substitute for Christ at the time of the Reformation.
The most popular candidate for fulfilling the image of antichrist was the Pope. Luther and Calvin both were convinced that the Pope in Rome was the antichrist of the Roman Catholic Church was the anti-Christian institution that was embodied in the one who called himself the Vicar of Christ on earth that is the substitute for Jesus in the church, namely the Pope and that this was a time of unprecedented corruption in the papacy, which fact all historians agree upon, including Roman Catholic historians in the days of the Borgia Popes and so on. Even by the 17th century in the Westminster confession of faith. It became an article of creedal affirmation was actually included in the Westminster confession that said that the Pope in Rome is the antichrist. However, there are few today who would argue that the biblical imagery of antichrist of the beast is fulfilled in the Pope. Others have looked to military leaders of great power and wickedness who have emerged historically in the 20th century. Some of the candidates for identification of antichrist have been Joseph Stalin and Mussolini because if you translate the title of Mussolini, Il Duce in a certain way you can come up with the number 666 and obviously the most popular candidate in the 20th century has been Adolph Hitler because of his devastating destruction of the Jewish people, and of his unprecedented wickedness. Also, if you study the life of Adolf Hitler. You will see in the surviving journal entries from his own hand. The occasion where he made an entry in which he said today. I have made a covenant with Satan and those who were close to Hitler. Some of his closest henchmen were actively engaged in Satan's him and of course the surprising military might of the blitzkrieg and Ellis thought that that was demonic in terms of its support. But again, since the passage of time not too many people are looking now at Hitler as the fulfillment of the antichrist as had been in previous generations.
Now again if we follow the process that we've been examining here in terms of our study of the timeframe references of the Mount of olives discourse the timeframe references of the book of Revelation, and we continue to struggle with this sense of the radical nearness of the time of fulfillment of so many of these prophecies that are set forth in the New Testament. Obviously, it would be important for us to consider the question of a first century fulfillment of this prophecy again man of lawlessness was said to be already at work to the spirit of the antichrist was already in the world, and John announced his near manifestation and three. The language of the book of Revelation, which speaks about those things that will shortly come to pass, coupled with the very nature of the literary descriptive forms that we find in Revelation that many scholars say was written in a kind of code in order to protect the Christian community that was engaged in reading this information from discovery and persecution. We also know that the first century church endured enormous persecution, first at the hands of the Jewish community, but then secondly at the hands of the Romans and one of the most significant persecutions arose in the decade of the 60s under the authority of Nero and it was under Nero's authority that the persecution of Christians began in this tradition tells us Nero himself. Perhaps started the great fire that destroyed so many sections of Rome and turned around and blamed it on the Christian's which caused the Christians to come in great popular disfavor at that time it was under Nero that the two great Saints of the first century church were executed. Peter and Paul. Both of them were martyred under the reign of Nero, and at his command. Now, if we consider the possibility of a first century candidate and a candidate who would appear before the coming of Jesus in terms of the destruction of Jerusalem and the judgment coming of Christ on the temple and on the Jewish nation we would be looking for somebody who would appear obviously before 70 A.D. if that is the timeframe in which we are restricted to work for the fulfillment of this concept of antichrist, then obviously the most likely candidate would be Nero in the ancient world, even among pagans.
Nobody distinguish themselves for their wickedness. To the degree that the Emperor Nero did the roast life was a life of radical violence and debauchery. He murdered several of his own family members. He castrated a boy and then quote married the boy he brutally murdered his own wife while she was pregnant by kicking her to death and the historian Suetonius wrote that Nero devised a kind of game in which covered with the skin of some wild animal.
He was let loose from the cage and attacked the private parts of men and women who were bound to stakes. That is a part of the entertainment that he sponsored either in the Circus Maximus are in the Coliseum.
Probably the Circus Maximus was that he would get these people, men and women have them secured at the stake. And then he he would come out dressed up like a lion or a wolf for covering himself in skins and then would attack the genitals of these people who were there and so this kind of behavior was extreme to say the least. Nero began his reign as Emperor in the year 54 his persecution of the Christian community was in the year 64 and he committed suicide in the year 68.
14 years after he assumed the power of the Emperor, he committed suicide at the age of 31 so that he rose to power, when he was 17 years old again more summations of the character of Nero from antiquity, the historian Tacitus spoke of Nero's cool nature and plenty. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder's describe Nero quote as the destroyer of the human race." The poison of the world. Roman satire as a juvenile spoke of quote Nero's cruel and bloodied tyranny by Polonius of Diana specifically says in his writings that the favorite nickname. The people had for Nero was simply the beast makes his comments in my travels, which have been wider than ever man yet accomplished.
I've seen many, many wild beasts of Arabia and India. But this beast is commonly called a tyrant. I know not how many heads. It has more of it be crooked of claw and armed with horrible fangs and of wild beasts, you cannot say that they were ever known to eat their own mother.
But Nero has gorged himself on this diet, and so the historical record not from the Christian community. But from the contemporaries of Nero from the Roman culture itself describes consistently and constantly the best jewel character of this madman of antiquity.
What about the cryptic number that the author of Revelation warns the people to be alert to and is cluing them in to a manner in which he can be recognized and he indicates that this beast can be known by a number and the number is the number 666. Now before I explore that number one also mention that Audley in some variant manuscripts would go way back in history of the book of Revelation there is a textual variant in this verse so that the number that is listed there is not the number 666 that it is the number 616 a textual variant is usually understood to take place when the original manuscript was copied by hand by a monger by somebody and in the process of copying that laborious, tedious process of copying word for word the text of Scripture. Occasionally, a letter was missed or somebody forgot to cross it to your daughter and I or a simple mistake entered into the process and by the careful study of the existing manuscripts that we have from antiquity. We see that these things happened in several examples of them, but this may be of special significance as we socially in a moment in the ancient world. Crypto grams were a common thing cryptogram was an encoded message whereby numbers and letters were related on the three major language groups that were concerned about here in antiquity, namely Hebrew, Greek and Latin.
All three of them had systems of using their letters for numbers so that all three languages were used in crypto grammatical way. We are familiar with this. Even today went least with respect to Latin because we are aware of the use of Roman numerals and Roman numerals are simply Latin letters that have a numerical value like the Latin X has a numerical value of 10.
The Latin letter V as the numerical value five. The Latin letter M has a numerical value of 1000 and so on with D and L and I and other letters that have a clear numerical value. Now this was also true in Hebrew and if we looked at the name of Nero in Hebrew.
We get the name transliterated Nero on Kaiser that is Nero, Caesar, and in the Hebrew alphabet and numerology. This name Nero Kaiser when translated into numbers comes to the member. 666 exactly however in the ancient world.
The Greek name of Caesar changed from Moron Kaiser to never okay sir, a very slight variation in the writing and the Greek numerical equivalency of the Greek form of the name of the Emperor Nero came out to the number 6161 of the most preeminent textual scholars of the 20th century man by the name of Bruce Metzger from Princeton and Metzger once offered the opinion that in his judgment, as the supreme textual critic in the world today that his judgment was that in all probability the textual variant in the Greek that was found in antiquity where the number is 616 rather than 666 was an intentional variation so that Greek speaking people would be able to discern the number on the basis of the Greek language rather than requiring them to know Hebrew in order to understand this encoded site. We also know that during Caligula's reign and the reign of Nero. There was a rapid expansion of Emperor worship with in Rome and some of the earlier emperors such as Augustine's himself were given the honor of being regarded as deities after their death, but people do not practice the worship of their images during their lifetime, but under Caligula, and especially under Nero. This did occur, and it occurred by Nero's own command. Nero had his statue set up. For example, in the temple of Mars and enforced the worship of his stature.
Also, people such as Josephus saw the great sacrilege, which was an abomination of desolation take place when the Roman standards which were worshiped as representatives of the Emperor were brought in to the temple itself as an act of desecration of the Jewish religion so we see that in all of the things that describe the vicious wicked because I religious and military character of the beast or seen in the actual life of Nero leading many historians and scholars to believe that the beast in view as well as Antichrist and man of lawlessness in the first century church was fulfilled in the person of Nero because it was linked to the events that were soon to take place in the destruction of Jerusalem and the judgment of God upon the Jewish people know others who also are impressed by Nero's candidacy for the identity of the duties say that at least Nero was tight of the beast and Antichrist and those who believe that the antichrist is still future. Yet the con say that he will be like Nero in his will is certainly a helpful perspective on the beast is in it. Dr. RC Sproul is taking us through his series. The last days according to Jesus in your listing to Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday. Thank you for being with us this week were concentrating on the predictions about the end times that we find in the book of Revelation. Admittedly, this is a confusing mysterious topic.
There are many theories and views out there and many questions like when will Christ return. Who is the beast will the church be around for any of these events. I think you'll find this series by Dr. Spruill helpful will be glad to send you the 12 messages onto DVDs.
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