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At the end of Revelation 17:11, the angel tells us that the scarlet beast “goes to destruction.” There is more to this than just the beast being destroyed in the end. In fact, there are enormous prophetic implications to this statement. Whereas he spends most of his career persecuting the saints, toward the end he becomes a son of perdition.
The Greek word translated “destruction” is apoleia, which the KJV translates “perdition.” The root word apollumi means “perish, destroy, lose.” Apoleia is also the word used in verse 8, where the beast is said to “come up out of the abyss [the deep sea] and to go to destruction” or “perdition.”
This is the same terminology that Jesus used to describe Judas, who betrayed Him. John 17:12 says,
12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished [apoleia, “was lost” KJV] but the son of perdition [apoleia], that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.
In my opinion, the King James Version is more accurate in rendering it “lost” rather than “perished.” When Jesus prayed this prayer, Judas had not yet hanged himself, but he had already been “lost.” That is, he had gone out from the Last Supper to make a deal with the chief priests. Hence, the phrase, “son of perdition,” is a specific term reserved for the prophetic role that is played by the betrayers. We might apply it retroactively to Ahithophel, though Jesus applied it specifically to Judas. Paul later applied the term to an end-time betrayer, as we will see shortly.
The Usurpers and the Betrayers
If you recall, Judas fulfilled the prophetic role of Ahithophel, who betrayed King David when Absalom usurped his throne. Judas was Jesus’ “friend” (Matthew 26:50) when he betrayed Him, even as Ahithophel had been David’s “friend” (Psalm 41:9).
This entire story of betrayal, in which the throne was usurped out from under its rightful king, has a third prophetic fulfillment in connection to the second work of Christ. For this reason, Paul spoke of the coming “son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3), who will be exposed in “the day of the Lord.” To really understand this prophecy, one must have a thorough knowledge of the original story of David and Absalom and the role of Ahithophel. One must then know how it was fulfilled in Christ’s first appearance, where David’s role was played by Jesus, Absalom’s role was played by the chief priests, and Ahithophel’s role was played by Judas.
Armed with that knowledge, we can then see how the story has been playing out for the third time. The second coming of Christ is a Joseph manifestation, and the conflict this time is over the birthright. Hence, the conflict has taken a different form with new usurpers and betrayers. The usurpers are those who actively and knowingly oppose Christ’s claim to the throne and the birthright. The betrayers are Jesus’ friends who help the usurpers to achieve their goal.
The betrayers, then, are Christian believers. The usurpers of the birthright are the same as those who usurped the throne of David. Having usurped the throne, Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, “he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” In other words, by denying Christ His rightful claim to the throne, they usurped the throne.
As for the betrayers, no longer is there a single betrayer, because the “son of perdition” is now an entire group of people who help the usurpers. The birthright and the name of “Israel” were given to the sons of Joseph at the same time in Genesis 48:16, when Jacob laid hands on them and said,
16 The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them…
He was referring to the angel Peniel whom he had wrestled in Genesis 32:24. The angel had given him the name “Israel” in Genesis 32:28. This was the name that Jacob-Israel passed down to the sons of Joseph—or Ephraim in particular. So many centuries later, when the kingdom was divided, the northern tribes claimed the name Israel, while the southern tribes had to settle for the name Judah. After this division, Israel held the birthright, while Judah held the scepter.
Later, when Israel was taken to Assyria, the birthright appeared to be lost, along with the so-called “lost tribes of Israel.” More than a century later, Judah went into a 70-year captivity to Babylon, and then returned in order that Jesus might be born in Bethlehem of Judah, as Micah 5:2 had prophesied.
When Jesus came to Judah in His first appearance, He came to claim the scepter and throne of His father David. But in His second appearance, He comes to claim the birthright of Joseph and to take back the name Israel from those who usurped the name for themselves in 1948. Once again, the usurpers have received support from modern Ahithophels and Judases, most of them not knowing what they have done, because they failed to understand the story of David and Absalom and to see how it played out in the New Testament.
The Christian Beast Goes to Perdition
When the angel in Revelation 17:11 says that the scarlet beast “goes to destruction” (apoleia), he was giving us a major clue as to the identity of the beast as well as his destiny. In essence, the angel is telling us that the beast from the sea—the religious beast—is the disciple and “friend” of Jesus who ends up betraying Him at the end of the age. This religious beast, then, is a Christian beast, even as Judas had been a Christian.
Judas probably did not betray Jesus maliciously. It is understood by most theologians that he tried to put Jesus into a situation where He would be forced to do a miracle to save His own life. That miracle, witnessed by a large crowd, would then propel Him to the throne and make it clear to all that He was the Messiah. Judas’ heart was not right, and he ended up betraying Jesus, but nonetheless, he was still Jesus’ “friend.” In fact, while enemies may kill you, only friends can betray you.
The angelic statement, then, that the scarlet beast “goes to destruction” can be understood as an end-time prophecy. Obviously, “destruction” happens at the end of the story. So it requires no stretch of imagination to look for the fulfillment of this in our time at the end of the age. In fact, the entire drama has played out in the past century.
Those who usurped the throne at Christ’s first appearance were not content with this, but desired also the birthright of Joseph and the name Israel, which was the mark of the birthright. Many Jews may trace their ancestry back to the nation of Judah (which included Benjamin and Levi), and, in fact, “Jew” is but a shortened form of Judah. But the Israelites were never called Jews, nor were they Jews in a biblical sense, nor were they ever called to receive the birthright. We read in 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2,
1 Now the sons of Reuben the first-born of Israel (for he was the first-born, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright. 2 Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph).
As we have already seen, when Jacob-Israel passed the birthright down to the sons of Joseph, he also gave them the name which the angel had given him—Israel. The name is the mark of those who inherit the birthright. Christ Himself, in His second coming, is described as One having His robe dipped in blood (Revelation 19:13). This is the mark of Joseph (Genesis 37:31), whose robe was dipped in blood.
Most Christians are unaware of the biblical story, and this causes them to believe that the Jews are Israel and that the Jews are the inheritors of the birthright, having the right to call their nation Israel. They assume that the state of Israel is the fulfillment of the prophecies given to the House of Israel, not realizing that the House of Israel was not the Jewish nation. They do not understand the distinct callings that Israel and Judah had been given, any more than they understand the story of Absalom and David and Ahithophel.
For this reason, many Christians have been seduced to support the nation which took the name Israel, and this has placed them in the collective body that is today playing the role of Judas. Even as Judas betrayed Jesus in supporting the Jewish leaders’ desire to usurp the throne of David, so also the modern Judas is betraying Jesus in supporting the Jewish leaders’ desire to usurp the birthright of Joseph and the name Israel.
There is yet time to repent, of course, for we have all betrayed Christ in various ways, usually without realizing it. We should also make it clear that betraying Christ does not mean that someone loses their salvation. Judas was a believer, but he lost his position as a disciple (Acts 1:20) and, I believe, as an overcomer. It is unfortunate that so many Christians believe that Judas lost his ultimate salvation, because such a view makes it inconceivable that so many sincere Christians today might also lose their salvation. Not knowing the difference between a believer (Jacob) and an overcomer (Israel) handicaps many Christians in their understanding of the divine plan.
True Israelites are Overcomers
Israel was a nation dominated by a particular genealogy descended from the twelve sons of Jacob-Israel. However, there were foreigners who became Israelites as well. They were Israelites by nationality, and they were mentioned many times in Scripture. Hence, the Bible never talks about an Israel race; it is always the “nation” of Israel. For example, in Judges 2:20 God condemns Israel, saying, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant...” The whole nation had transgressed the covenant, not just the genealogical Israelites within the nation.
Jacob was not born an Israelite. He was given that name later. Israel, then, is a prophetic name, not a racial name. It speaks of one’s character and of a mature relationship with God, which even Jacob did not have until he wrestled with the angel. To be an Israelite, then, required more than just a genealogical connection with Abraham and Isaac. So also the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 11:3-7 that those who are “chosen” or “elect” are only the remnant of grace—not the entire nation. In Elijah’s day there were only 7,000 “chosen people.”
Those who are not of the remnant of grace desire to usurp the name Israel for themselves, claiming to be chosen, but basing their claim on the flesh one way or another. Those Christians who testify on their behalf that they are indeed the true Israelites, chosen of God, are betraying Jesus Christ Himself, usually without realizing it.
In the end, the religious beast as a corporate entity betrays Jesus and thus “goes to destruction.” The judgment of this beast, that is, the little horn of Daniel 7:20, signals the time when the kingdom is given to “the saints” of the Most High (Daniel 7:22). It is the point in time where the true Israelites, those called to rule the earth as part of the Joseph company, are given the birthright as children of Joseph.