From time to time, this column on Endtime events revisits the subject of the “image of the Beast.” Recently I was looking at a photo of a gold-plated colossus of a recently deceased dictator, and it got me thinking. It seems dictators really like having giant statues of themselves erected, and it looks like the worst tyrant the world will ever know is going to follow in the tradition of his predecessors. That tyrant, of course, would be the Antichrist, whom the apostle John, in the Bible’s final book, Revelation, called “the Beast.” According to John, a character called the “False Prophet,” one of the Beast’s chief accomplices, “deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the Beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the Beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.”1
“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on [in] their right hand or on [in] their foreheads, 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. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” (Revelation 13:16–18)
This prophecy is remarkable. Think about it: Nearly 2,000 years ago the apostle John, who prior to meeting Jesus had been a fisherman by trade and had been called an “uneducated and untrained” man, (Acts 4:13) predicted that a global economic system will one day be instituted in which everyone will be forced to receive a number, without which no one will be able to buy or sell. Only in this era of computers and electronic commerce could this prophecy be fulfilled.
“The Antichrist is coming.” 1
The most outstanding and ominous sign of the end of the world as we know it—a sign that the Bible devotes several key chapters to—will be the rise of a Devil-possessed tyrant known as the Antichrist, or “the Beast,” who will set up a world government “over every tribe, tongue, and nation.”2
Why haven’t I everheard about these things before? I wondered. Why isn’t this common knowledge? It was soon after I had accepted Jesus as my Savior, and I was hearing about Bible prophecy, the book of Revelation, the end time, and the Antichrist all for the first time.
The most fascinating class, “The 70 Weeks of Daniel,” explained a prophecy foretelling these four events:
Have you ever been reading a suspenseful book and peeked at the last page to find out how it ended, or have you ever fast-forwarded a movie to see how the plot was going to develop? Have you ever wished you could do that with time itself—fast forward to find out what’s in store for this world of ours? Well, you can.
The Bible contains hundreds of prophetic glimpses into the future that describe specific people, places, times, events, and world conditions.1 Many of these prophecies are about the time in which we are now living—a period referred to as the end time.
Q: Is it really the end time? People have been saying that the end is near for thousands of years, but we’re still here.
A: True, but we’re now seeing some signs of the end that weren’t seen in previous generations. For example, technology has suddenly advanced to the point that implementing and enforcing the mark of the Beast are within the realm of possibility. Only now is it possible that every sign of the end that hasn’t already been fulfilled could be fulfilled in a matter of years.
If we haven’t lived the drama, we’ve seen it depicted in movies and on TV. The patient in the intensive care unit hovers between life and death while anxious family and friends fidget and pace in the waiting room and hallway, praying for the best, preparing for the worst, scanning the faces of the doctors and nurses as they shuffle in and out of the ICU, and hanging onto their every guarded word. Will the patient survive? If so, will there be permanent damage? Will life ever be the same?
“You have to hear about this book I just read!” My normally laid-back friend was quite worked up. “I tell you, it’s happening soon!”
“What’s happening soon?”
“The end of the world as we know it!” My friend launched into a series of facts and statistics to try to convince me. “Did you know that over the past 20 years, the Arctic Ocean has been warming eight times faster than it did over the previous 100 years?”