Verse 8: As the events of the last days unfold, people will be forced to choose whom they will worship. Circumstances will either harden their hearts as the plagues of Egypt hardened Pharaohs heart (Ex 7-11) or cause them to realize their need to repent. By this point, those who choose Jesus will face enormous hardship and, in many cases, death. This is the season Jesus foretold when He said that if God did not shorten the time, no believers would be left alive (Mt 24:22). The antichrist will attempt to do to Christians what Hitler tried to do to the Jews. In the face of such persecution, those who are not born again will not be able to resist the pressure to save their lives by worshipping the antichrist. The result will be to divide the human population into two groups. The first is made up of all who dwell on the earth meaning those who have made this world the focus of their lives. These are those whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who has been slain. Their names are not found in Christs registry.
Verse 8 (continued): The second group is made up of those whose names are found in that registry, those truly born again who have focused their hopes on heaven rather than this world. They steadfastly refuse to worship the antichrist even though it means they will suffer or die. Paul tells us concerning the first group, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness (2Th 2:11, 12). Every adult human will make a choice between which price they will pay: immediate persecution or eternal separation from God. Amazingly during these final years, most choose the latter.
Revelation 13:9, 10
Verses 9, 10: Here the Holy Spirit inserts a word of warning. When enduring persecution, people of faith will keep the situation in perspective. They will remember that though God has permitted this to happen (Da 7:21, 25), He has also promised to bring justice to their persecutors (2Th 1:4-10). If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes. If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. These words are drawn from warnings God gave to Israel because their sin was so great nothing would prevent Him from sending punishment (Jer 15:2; 43:11; Eze 5:12; Zec 11:9). They imply that God has ordained a judgment which cannot be averted. In this case, it is the persecutors of Gods people who are being given this warning. Knowing that their judgment is certain will strengthen the faith of believers and help them persevere. No matter how bad things look God is still in control.
Verse 11: The antichrist himself will be a political leader, not a spiritual leader. Though he will declare himself divine and demand to be worshipped, he does so from the position of being a king, not a priest. Here in this verse a new personality emerges. A high priest will arise to orchestrate the worlds worship of the antichrist. John sees him pictured symbolically as a beast with two horns like a lamb and the voice of a dragon. In other words, he will appear to be a peaceful religious leader, but the words he speaks will be inspired by Satan himself. He may, in fact, claim to be Jesus Christ returned. Jesus warned His disciples that false christs would try to deceive people into following them during this final 3 1Ъ2 year period. After indicating that a horrible persecution would take place (Mt 24:15-22; Mk 13:14-20), Jesus said that false christs and prophets would be so effective in their deception and so powerful in producing great signs and wonders that they would mislead, if possible, even the elect (Mt 24:24; Mk 13:22). Clearly, He foresaw this counterfeit lamb and warned His disciples not to be fooled by this imposter. Many may even mistake him for the true Jesus Christ and say, Behold, He is in the wilderness... or He is in the inner rooms (Mt 24:26) but Christs return will be an unmistakable event (Mt 24:27) followed by a massive destruction of the antichrists army (Mt 24:28).
Verse 12: The antichrist will put all his powers at this religious leaders disposal. The false prophet (Rev 16:13; 20:10) will in turn use these powers to set up a religious system which forces everyone on the planet to worship the antichrist. In order to justify what he is doing, he will emphasize that the antichrist, whose fatal wound was healed had miraculously risen from the dead. Verse 13: The false prophet will validate himself by doing remarkable miracles such as ordering fire (or lightening) to strike. He will try to use such signs to confirm that either the antichrist is god or at least has Gods full endorsement. In fact, it will be Satans powers causing these things to happen (Rev 13:2). Verse 14: Both Jesus (Mt 24:24) and Paul (2Th 2:9-12) said there would be intense demonic deception during these final years. Without the Holy Spirit to give revelation and without the courage to die if being forced to renounce Christ (Rev 12:11; 14:13) no one will escape the powerful spell that will be cast. As a focal point for the worlds worship, the false prophet will have a statue of the antichrist constructed.
Verse 15: Apparently the image will appear to come to life, at least to the degree that it will speak. When it does, it will command that all who refuse to worship it will be killed. Verse 16: To identify any who might refuse, those who worship the statue of the antichrist are marked on their right hand or forehead. In time, those remaining unmarked will become easily identifiable so they can be arrested and killed. Verse 17: Since it will take time to mark billions of people, the false prophet will broadcast an announcement worldwide to be implemented immediately. No financial transactions may occur unless the person buying or selling displays the mark. This step will instantly impoverish those without the mark and turn them into fugitives. The mark itself will either be the name of the antichrist or the number of his name. Verse 18: Johns challenge to calculate the number of the beast may be something only those living in that final generation can do. Somehow the man who becomes the antichrist will be associated with the number 666. Possibly the letters of his name will total 666 or there may be another way that number points to him.
The visions of chapter 13 showed us the religious persecution of the final 42 months, particularly as it applied worldwide to non-Jewish Christians (Rev 12:17), but chapter 14 begins with a vision of the 144,000 standing beside Jesus Christ in heaven. In an earlier vision (Rev 12:1-6), John saw the nation of Israel give birth to a final spiritual child which was caught up to God and to His throne. This child was caught up to escape the dragon that waited to destroy it at birth (Rev 12:5). I believe the child represents the same group of people who are also identified as the 144,000. The number 144,000 is a numerical prophecy declaring that there will be a complete number of Jews, 12,000 from each of 12 tribes, who believe in Jesus Christ during this final generation (Rev 7:4-8). This is why John saw the little book in the strong angels hand and then was told to eat the book (Rev 10:2, 3, 8-11). Judging from what John prophesied after eating the book I believe it contained the prophecies of Ezekiel (36-48) along with numerous other Old Testament prophecies which promised the spiritual restoration of Israel in the last days. This passage (Rev 14:1-5) tells us those prophecies will be literally fulfilled.