Rev. 13:7 – And he was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. He was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation.
Take note of the sinister will of Satan and the permissive will of God. The dragon gives the beast his power, authority and throne (v. 2). The beast’s fatal would is healed (v. 3a.). The whole earth is amazed and follows the beast (v. 3b). They worship the dragon … and worship the beast (v. 4). A mouth is given to the beast to speak boasts and blasphemies, and he is given authority to act for 42 months (v. 5).
So far, the emphasis is on the work of Satan, manipulating the beast. But things begin to turn in verse 7, where it becomes clear that God permits the evil to take place. The beast is permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. He is given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation (v. 7). All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name is not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who is slaughtered (v. 8).
Satan plots, indwells, empowers, amazes, destroys, and deceives – all the while attracting the worship of the world’s lost. And the whole time Almighty God permits it, even the slaughter of the saints. Satan can do nothing without God’s permission. He cannot take Job’s possessions, wipe out his family, or afflict his body without the Lord removing His protective hedge (see Job 1-2). And Satan cannot sift Peter like wheat, causing him to deny Christ, without the Lord allowing it; even so, he cannot snatch Peter from the hand of God, for the apostle will “turn back” to his Master (see Luke 22:31-32).
It’s impossible for the finite human mind to grasp the infinite sovereignty of God, who allows evil and, at times, seems a willing participant in it, and yet cannot be tempted with evil. The holiness of God is as true as the reality of evil, and what God causes and permits are two sides of the same coin. With all things under His authority – even the evil of Satan and his demons, and the rebellion of sinful people – He is somehow able to take the worst His creatures can dish out and fashion it into the very best.
Note how R.J.D. Utley sees this description possibly being fulfilled in three evil leaders: “This is an allusion to (1) ‘the beast’ in Dan. 7:8, 11, 20, 25; 11:30; (2) Antiochus IV Epiphanes in Dan. 8; I Macc. 1:24; and/or (3) “the man of sin” in II Thess. 2:4. Some see an allusion to the abomination of desolation of Matt. 24:15, which refers to the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem under the Roman general, and later Emperor, Titus, in A.D. 70.This is a good example of how the historical focus of these symbols changes. In Dan. 8 it refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the interbiblical period; in Matt. 24 it refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and in Dan. 7 (and possibly 11:36–39) it refers to the activity of the end-time Antichrist” (Hope in Hard Times – The Final Curtain: Revelation, vol. 12, Study Guide Commentary Series, p. 96).
Next: Everyone whose name was not written – Revelation 13:8