Revelation 13:13
And he does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Revelation 13:13-17. And he doeth great wonders — We have seen the greatness of the power and authority of the beast, and we shall now see what course he pursues to establish it. He pretends, like other false prophets, to show great signs and wonders, and even to call for fire from heaven, as Elias did, 2 Kings 1:11-12. His impostures, too, are so successful, that he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth, &c. — In this respect he perfectly resembles St. Paul’s man of sin, 2 Thessalonians 2:9; or rather they are one and the same character, represented in different lights, and under different names. It is further observable, that he is said to perform his miracles in the sight of men, in order to deceive them, and in the sight of the beast, in order to serve him: but not in the sight of God, to serve his cause, or promote his religion. Now miracles, visions, and revelations, are the mighty boast of the Church of Rome; the contrivances of an artful, cunning clergy, to impose upon an ignorant, credulous laity. Even fire is pretended to come down from heaven, as in the case of St. Anthony’s fire, and other instances, cited by Brightman and other writers on the Revelation: and in solemn excommunications, which are called the thunders of the church, and are performed with the ceremony of casting down burning torches from on high, as symbols and emblems of fire from heaven. Miracles are thought so necessary, that they are reckoned among the notes of the Catholic Church. But if these miracles were all real, we learn from hence what opinion we ought to frame of them; and what then shall we say, if they are all fictions and counterfeits? They are indeed so far from being any proofs of the true church, that they are rather a proof of a false one; and, as we see, the distinguishing mark of antichrist.

The influence of the two-horned beast, or corrupted clergy, is further seen in persuading and inducing mankind to make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live — That is, an image and representative of the Roman empire, which was wounded by the sword of the barbarous nations, and revived in the revival of a new emperor of the west. He had also power to give life and activity unto the image of the beast — It should not be a dumb and lifeless idol, but should speak and deliver oracles, as the statues of the heathen gods were feigned to do, and should cause to be killed as many as would not worship and obey it — This image and representation of the beast is, most probably, the pope. He is properly the idol of the church. He represents in himself the whole power of the beast, and is the head of all authority, temporal as well as spiritual. He is nothing more than a private person, without power and without authority, till the two-horned beast, or the corrupted clergy, by choosing him pope, give life unto him, and enable him to speak and utter his decrees, and to persecute even to death as many as refuse to submit to him and to worship him. As soon as he is chosen pope, he is clothed with the pontifical robes, and crowned, and placed upon the altar, and the cardinals come and kiss his feet, which ceremony is called adoration. They first elect, and then they worship him; as in the medals of Martin V., where two are represented crowning the pope, and two kneeling before him, with this inscription, Quem creant aclorant, Whom they create they adore. He is the principle of unity to the ten kingdoms of the beast, and causeth, as far as he is able, all who will not acknowledge his supremacy to be put to death. In short, he is the most perfect likeness and resemblance of the ancient Roman emperors, is as great a tyrant in the Christian world as they were in the heathen, presides in the same city, usurps the same power, affects the same titles, and requires the same universal homage and adoration. So that the prophecy descends more and more to particulars, from the Roman state or ten kingdoms in general, to the Roman Church or clergy in particular, and still more particularly to the person of the pope, the head of the state, as well as of the church, the king of kings, as well as bishop of bishops.

Other offices the false prophet performs to the beast in subjecting all sorts of people to his obedience, by imposing certain terms of communion, and excommunicating all who dare in the least article to dissent from him. He causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, of whatsoever rank and condition they be, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads — We must remember, that it was customary among the ancients for servants to receive the mark of their master, and soldiers of their general, and those who were devoted to any particular deity, of the particular deity to whom they were devoted. These marks were usually impressed on their right hand, or on their foreheads; and consisted of some hieroglyphic characters, or of the name expressed in vulgar letters, or of the name disguised in numerical letters, according to the fancy of the imposer. It is in allusion to this ancient practice and custom, that the symbol and profession of faith in the Church of Rome, as subserving superstition, idolatry, and tyranny, is called the mark or character of the beast; which character is said to be received in their forehead when they make an open profession of their faith, and in their right hand when they live and act in conformity to it. If any dissent from the stated and authorized forms, they are condemned and excommunicated as heretics; and in consequence of that they are no longer suffered to buy or sell — They are interdicted from traffic and commerce, and all the benefits of civil society. Thus Hovedon relates, that William the Conqueror would not permit any one in his power to buy or sell any thing, whom he found disobedient to the apostolic see. So the canon of the council of Lateran, under Pope Alexander the Third, made against the Waldenses and Albigenses, enjoins, upon pain of anathema, that “no one presume to entertain or cherish them in his house or land, or exercise traffic with them.” The synod of Tours, in France, under the same pope, ordered, under the like intermination, that “no man should presume to receive or assist them, no, not so much as to hold any communion with them in selling or buying, that, being deprived of the comfort of humanity, they may be compelled to repent of the error of their way.” So did Pope Martin V. in his bull after the council of Constance. In this respect the false prophet spake as the dragon: for the dragon Dioclesian published a like edict, that no one should sell or administer any thing to the Christians, unless they had first burned incense to the gods. Popish excommunications are therefore like heathen persecutions, and how large a share the corrupted clergy, and especially the monks of former, and the Jesuits of later times, have had in framing and enforcing such cruel interdicts, and in reducing all orders and degrees to so servile a state of subjection, no man of the least reading can want to be informed.13:11-18 Those who understand the first beast to denote a worldly power, take the second to be also a persecuting and assumed power, which acts under the disguise of religion, and of charity to the souls of men. It is a spiritual dominion, professing to be derived from Christ, and exercised at first in a gentle manner, but soon spake like the dragon. Its speech betrayed it; for it gives forth those false doctrines and cruel decrees, which show it to belong to the dragon, and not to the Lamb. It exercised all the power of the former beast. It pursues the same design, to draw men from worshipping the true God, and to subject the souls of men to the will and control of men. The second beast has carried on its designs, by methods whereby men should be deceived to worship the former beast, in the new shape, or likeness made for it. By lying wonders, pretended miracles. And by severe censures. Also by allowing none to enjoy natural or civil rights, who will not worship that beast which is the image of the pagan beast. It is made a qualification for buying and selling, as well as for places of profit and trust, that they oblige themselves to use all their interest, power, and endeavour, to forward the dominion of the beast, which is meant by receiving his mark. To make an image to the beast, whose deadly wound was healed, would be to give form and power to his worship, or to require obedience to his commands. To worship the image of the beast, implies being subject to those things which stamp the character of the picture, and render it the image of the beast. The number of the beast is given, so as to show the infinite wisdom of God, and to exercise the wisdom of men. The number is the number of a man, computed after the usual manner among men, and it is 666. What or who is intended by this, remains a mystery. To almost every religious dispute this number has yet been applied, and it may reasonably be doubted whether the meaning has yet been discovered. But he who has wisdom and understanding, will see that all the enemies of God are numbered and marked out for destruction; that the term of their power will soon expire, and that all nations shall submit to our King of righteousness and peace.And he doeth great wonders - "Signs" - σημεῖα sēmeia - the word commonly employed to denote "miracles" (compare the notes on Acts 2:19); and the representation here is, that the power referred to by the second beast would found its claim on pretended miracles, and would accomplish an effect on the world as if it actually did work miracles. The applicability of this to papal Rome no one can doubt. See the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Compare Revelation 13:14.

That he maketh five come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men - That is, he pretends this; he accomplishes an effect as if he did it. It is not necessary to suppose that he actually did this, anymore than it is to suppose that he actually performed the other pretended miracles referred to in other places. John describes him as he saw him in the vision; and he saw him laying claim to this power, and actually producing an effect as if by a miracle he actually made fire to descend from heaven upon the earth. This is to be understood as included in what the apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:9) calls "signs and lying wonders," as among the things by which the "man of sin and the son of perdition" would be characterized, and by which he would be sustained. See the notes on that passage. Why this particular pretended miracle is specified here is not certain. It may be because this would be among the most striking and impressive of the pretended miracles performed - as if lying beyond all human power - as Elijah made fire come down from heaven to consume the sacrifice 1 Kings 18:37-38, and as the apostles proposed to do on the Samaritans Luke 9:54, as if fire were called down on them from heaven. The phrase "in the sight of men" implies that this would be done publicly, and is such language as would be used of pretended miracles designed for purposes of ostentation. Amidst the multitudes of pretended miracles of the papacy, it would probably not be difficult to find instances in which the very thing here described was attempted, in which various devices of pyrotechnics were shown off as miracles. For an illustration of the wonders produced in the dark ages in reference to fire, having all the appearance of miracles, and regarded as miracles by the masses of people, the reader is referred to Dr. Brewster's Letters on Natural Magic, particularly Letter 12.

13. wonders—Greek, "signs."

so that—so great that.

maketh fire—Greek, "maketh even fire." This is the very miracle which the two witnesses perform, and which Elijah long ago had performed; this the beast from the bottomless pit, or the false prophet, mimics. Not merely tricks, but miracles of a demoniacal kind, and by demon aid, like those of the Egyptian magicians, shall be wrought, most calculated to deceive; wrought "after the working (Greek, 'energy') of Satan."

And he doeth great wonders; lying wonders, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, such as, by God’s permission, false prophets might do, Deu 13:1,2. Prophets were to be judged true or false, not from any signs or wonders which they did, but from the doctrine they taught, and would by those signs establish.

So that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men; wonders as great as those which Elijah wrought. And he doeth great wonders,.... Or miracles; not real, but pretended ones, lying wonders, which the Popish legends are full of the accounts of, as done by the priests, or by this or the other saint:

so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men; in imitation of Elijah, 2 Kings 1:9; and this single instance is put instead of all others, it being usual with the Jews to express all wonderful and miraculous operations by this miracle of Elijah's: and this may be understood mystically, of the pretensions of the Papacy to confer the Holy Ghost, and his gifts upon men, by breathing on them, which on the day of Pentecost were represented by cloven tongues, as of fire, coming down from heaven; or of their anathemas, curses, and excommunications, at which time burning torches and candles are cast up, and fall down, as emblems of divine wrath, which is called cursing men with bell, book, and candle; or else of the fire of persecution: "from heaven"; the secular powers of the empire: "upon the earth"; the common people: or this may be understood literally; so they tell us, that Pope Zachary, once on a journey to Ravenna, had in the daytime a cloud to protect him from the heat, and in the night time armies of fire appeared in the clouds to go before him; and as Pope Innocent was at Mass, a golden crown was seen, and on it a dove, and under it a smoking censer, and hard by them two burning firebrands: and it is reported of Pope Hildebrand, that, whenever he pleased, he could shake his sleeves, and sparks of fire would come out; and by these miracles deluded the eyes of the simple with a show of holiness, which, with other instances, are taken notice of by Napier, Brightman, and other writers: and so here this is said to be done "in the sight of men"; to their apprehension, seemingly, in their view; they being cheated and deluded with an appearance and show of things which were not real.

{19} And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

(19) The second point of the things done by the beast, is the credit of great wonders or miracles, and pertaining to the strengthening of this impiety: of which signs some were given from above, as it is said, that fire was sent down from heaven by false sorcery, in this verse. Others were shown here below in the sight of the beast, to establish idolatry, and deceive souls: which part John sets forth, beginning (as they say) at that which is last, in this manner: First, the effect is declared in these words, He deceives the inhabitants of the earth. Secondly, the common manner of working, in two sorts: one of miracles, for the signs which were given him to do in the presence of the beast, the other of the words added to the signs, and teaching the idolatry by those signs saying to the inhabitants of the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which etc. Thirdly, a special manner is declared, That it is given to him to put life into the image of the beast and that such a type of quickening, that the same both speaks by answer to those that ask counsel of it, and also pronounces death against all those that do not obey nor worship it: all things which oftentimes by false miracles through the procurement and inspiration of the devil, have been effected and wrought in images. The histories of the papists are full of examples of such miracles, the most of them false, many also done by the devil in images, as of old in the serpent; Ge 3:5. By which example is confirmed, not the authority of the beast, but the truth of God and these prophecies.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 13:13-14. σημεὶα μεγάλα. As, according to Matthew 24:24, they belong to the seductive activity (Revelation 13:14) of the false prophet.[3359]

ἽΝΑ ΚΑῚ ΠῪΡ ΠΟΙῇ ΚΑΤΑΒΑΊΝΕΙΝ ἘΚ Τ. ΟΥΡ. With Beng., Hengstenb. recognizes here a significant example of the use of the ΊΝΑ[3360] in the sense of ὬΣΤΕ peculiar to the Apostle John. But, improperly: the use of ἽΝΑ, which in this passage, in fact, explains the conception of the ΜΕΓΆΛΑ,[3361] is very strongly distinguished from the style of the Apostle John, because in the latter[3362] the ideal statement of the purpose is actually included, while here the writer of the Apoc., in a mode widely different from the elegance of the apostle, describes something that is simply a matter of fact. In such case, the apostle infallibly writes ὭΣΤΕ[3363] or ὍΤΙ.[3364]

The words ἽΝΑ ΚΑῚ ΠῪΡ, Κ.Τ.Λ., should not be regarded as proving that the false prophet intends to mimic Pentecost,[3365] or wishes to represent himself as a second Solomon. We are much more apt to think of an allusion to the miracles of Elijah,[3366] and thus to regard this false prophet as a forerunner of antichrist, in a way similar to that according to which the true Christ had an Elias[3367] as a forerunner. But the analogy dare not be determined more specifically than the context itself suggests. It is not the antichrist in the sense of the Apostle John,[3368] but the dragon that in the Apoc. stands opposed to Christ,[3369] and it is not the forerunner, but the accomplice, of the dragon, that is the other beast whose ungodly and antichristian nature expresses itself in the fact that in virtue of his demoniacal power he can perform miracles, which appear to be counterparts of the miracles of the true prophets.

ΚΑῚ ΠΛΑΝᾷ. The miracles are an important auxiliary[3370] of the seduction.[3371]

ΛΈΓΩΝ, without construction, as Revelation 11:1.

ΠΟΙῆΣΑΙ ΕἸΚΌΝΑ Τῷ ΘΗΡΊῼ, Κ.Τ.Λ. The historical foundation of this description is indicated already in the Introduction.[3372] All images of deified emperors must have appeared to the Christian conscience as images of the beast, the more certainly as all those individual emperors were possessors of the same antichristian secular power. Hence the addition Δ ἝΧΕΙ Τ. ΠΛ., Κ.Τ.Λ.,[3373] is also again in place here; the statues of Augustus and Caligula, erected to them as gods, were also represented by the beast which received its wound only with Nero’s death.

[3359] Victorin.: “These things the Magi do also to-day through fallen angels.”

[3360] The variation καὶ πῦρ ἱνα εκ τ. οὑρ. καταβαἱνῃ (Griesb., De Wette) would contain a turn similar to that of Revelation 13:12, viz., και (sc. ποιεῖ) πῦρ, κ.τ.λ.

[3361] Cf. Winer, p. 430.

[3362] Cf., e.g., 1 John 3:1, with my note, vol. ii., p. 49.

[3363] John 3:16.

[3364] 1 John 4:9.

[3365] Beda.

[3366] 2 Chronicles 7:1. C. a Lap.

[3367] Cf. Revelation 11:3 sqq.

[3368] Cf. Introduction, p. 65.

[3369] Revelation 12:3 sqq., Revelation 13:1 sqq.

[3370] διὰ τ. σ., because of the miracles. Cf. Revelation 12:11.

[3371] Matthew 24:24 : ὥστε πλανήσαι.

[3372] p. 51 sq.

[3373] Cf. Revelation 13:12. On the κ. ἔζησεν, cf. Revelation 2:8. On the neut. ο ἔχ., see Critical Notes.13. he doeth great wonders] St Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9.

maketh fire to come down] The similarity to 1 Kings 18, 2 Kings 1, is best explained by St Luke 12:55. To reproduce the acts of Elijah now shews the spirit, not of the true Christ, but of the false.Revelation 13:13. Ἵνα, so that) The particle ἵνα is frequently employed by John. In all his books, he has used ὥστε only once, ch. 3 of his Gospel, Revelation 13:16, where ἵνα in fact follows.—ἐνώπιον) Construe with ποιῇ, or rather with ποιεῖ.Verse 13. - And he doeth great wonders. Men are apt to deceive themselves by attributing to other agencies the power to work wonders which belongs only to God himself. In St. John's time the arts of magic were used; in modern times the marvels of science often lead men to a disbelief in God. Archdeacon Lee, in his commentary, says, "We cannot doubt that there is also a reference to the wonderful power over nature which the spirit of man has attained to, and which has too often been abused to the deification of Nature and her laws, and to the disparagement of the Divine action which is ever present in creation." So that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men; that he should even make fire, etc.. as in the Revised Version. We are not to understand this literally. It is given as a kind of sample of the power possessed by the beast, being a form of miracle which would be well known to St. John's readers (cf. Elijah on Carmel, 1 Kings 18; Korah's company, Numbers 16:35, etc.; also the request of SS. James and John, Luke 9:54). The descent of fire is also frequently a sign of God's approval (cf. Genesis 15:17; Leviticus 9:24; Judges 13:19, 20; 2 Chronicles 7:1). The two witnesses possessed the power of sending forth fire (see Revelation 11:5). In this respect, therefore - in the very nature of his signs - the beast still seems to counterfeit the power of God.
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