As chapter 12 ends, the enraged dragon (Satan) is making war against the woman (the church). Chapter 13 reveals the powerful climax of this warfare one-world kingdom united behind a powerful leader referred to here as the “beast” and elsewhere as the “man of lawlessness” or the “antichrist.” He and his kingdom receive their power from the dragon (v. 2), and are opposed to God and His people.
The beast will be hideous, but he won’t appear so. His power given by the dragon will enable him to do truly great, miraculous things. A second “beast” referring, I believe, to varied forces of his kingdom, including the media, educational system, etc. will put a “good face” on the beast so he can deceive the people into following him willingly. In fact, they will become so devoted that they will “worship” him and be totally intolerant of anyone opposing him. Only those identifying themselves with the beast through his “mark” will be able to function in society.
This will be a hard time for Christians. We, of course, will not identify with the beast. We will be persecuted. The beast will “make war” against us and appear to “conquer” us (v. 7). Martyrdom will take place. This will call for “patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints” (v. 10). The picture is bleak, but the story isn’t over. And the darkest hour is just before dawn.
Lord, give us grace to be faithful. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.