We had previously noted that the woman of Rev. 12 is the Church (of the O.T and N.T) ; the dragon is Satan. We saw him there engaged in a cosmic battle with the archangel Michael , and we saw that he lost that battle , and Satan thus thrown down from the heavenly realms. Six times do we read in 12:7-13 that "Satan was thrown down” with his angels to the earth". Satan has lost his place among the ‘sons of God’ (1:6) – a reference to the angels , and he has now been limited to the earthly realm, where he continues to vent his fury against God and against God’s people – the church - the metaphorical woman who has by now given birth to the man-child – Jesus.
In Chapter 13 we are introduced to Satan's two evil helpers. These are the two beasts of Chapter 13 - one arising out of the sea (i.e. the sea of humanity) and the other arising out of the earth. Philip Edgcumbe Hughes in his commentary on Revelation rightly calls this the "unholy Trinity of the anti-God, the trinity of evil ".
Last week we considered the beast arising out of the sea of humanity . This is the anti-christ. "Anti" can mean both "in place of" (deceit) and "against" (persecution). This accurately describes the work of Satan . He deceives, opposes and hinders the work of God in the world . We shall now take a look at the third person of this unholy trinity of evil: The false prophet !
1. A description of the second beast
2. The work of the second beast
3. The implications upon humanity
a. the broad mass of humanity, that belongs to Satan
b. the people of God
1. A DESCRIPTION OF THE SECOND BEAST (13:11)
The second "beast" is thoroughly deceptive. He looks less fearsome than the first. He has only two little horns instead of 10 horns and 7 heads . He looks like a lamb (note once again the deceit of Satan), but he speaks like a dragon!
How is this beast different from the first?
The first beast appears to have a political role. Satan (who is a spirit) must work through persons and human institutions that can implement his evil schemes. We are told that "the dragon gave the (first) beast his power and his throne (a place of power/dominion) and great authority." (v.2b) This power, throne and authority extends to the whole world (v.7) and it seems that for a while this beast actually conquers the saints (church) à see chapter 11: 1-10 for the same picture). "All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast" - all apart from those whose names are written in the book of life. (v. 8) It appears as if the whole world is in the hands of the Anti-Christ , but this is not so in reality. As in the days of Elijah, God has his elect remnant consisting of those that have not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18)
The second beast appears to manage the affairs of the first beast.
i. he exercises all the authority of the first beast on his behalf and is instrumental in making the inhabitants of the earth worship the first beast (v. 12)
ii. he was given power to perform miraculous signs on behalf of the first beast (v. 14)
iii. he orders that an image is set up in honour of the first beast (v. 14)
iv. he forces everyone to be marked with the number of the beast (vv 15-18)
The second beast at face value appears to be not as impressive as the first, but it has a dragon voice and he has an ability to do great signs and wonders (vv. 13,14). He appears to have little resistance in implementing the worship of the anti-christ. He effectively seduces the hearts of people from every tribe , people , language and nation, so that mankind at large worship, admire and submit to the first beast.
Who is this second beast ?
We do not have to struggle to discover his identity . Scripture itself helps us. Three texts identify this beast as the false prophet - Rev. 16:13; Rev. 19:20 ; Rev. 20:10. You see it very clearly in these verses - here the false prophet is a part of the unholy or evil trinity : the dragon , the anti-Christ and the false prophet. Thank God that we know already now what their future shall be . The devil, and the anti-christ (first beast) beast and the false-prophet (second beast) will be thrown into the lake of burning sulphur. (Rev. 20:10)
And so we have here the false prophet! What is a prophet? Try to forget the idea for a moment that a prophet is only someone who foretells the future. Another angle, according to the Bible, is that a prophet speaks for someone else e.g.
(i) Aaron is called the prophet of Moses (Ex 7:1). When they go to Pharaoh, Aaron expresses the message to Pharaoh on behalf of and instead of Moses.
(ii) The prophets of God in Israel are people who speak on behalf of God, thus revealing the will of God to man.
Now this second beast is also a prophet. He speaks for someone else. He speaks for the anti-christ. He is a false prophet. He speaks the lie. He deceives the nations into believing the lie. His words are accompanied by great signs and wonders. He even calls down fire from heaven. In a word , this prophet is the exact opposite of what a man such as the prophet Elijah was in Israel (1 Kings 17,18):
· Elijah stood before God Almighty ; The false prophet stands before Anti-Christ
· Elijah spoke the truth of God; the false prophet speaks the lies of Satan and the anti -christ.
· Elijah urged men to destroy the images of Baal and to serve the true and living God; the false prophet persuades men to forsake God almighty and to make an idol statue for the Dragon and for the first beast.
· Elijah persuaded men to kill the priests of Baal ; This false prophet kills those who refuse to bow down and worship the image of the anti- Christ. (Ch. 11: 1-10 ; 13: 7)
· Elijah called fire from the true God of heaven. The false prophet calls imitation fire from Satan. Like the magicians of Egypt who imitated some of Moses miracles , he imitates some of Christ’s miracles and makes people believe that this power is of God
2. THE WORK OF THE SECOND BEAST
The supreme work of the false prophet is to glorify the first beast. His work is to get humanity to worship the beast. He does that through his prophetic work. Naturally , we would expect a prophet to do signs and wonders. It would establish his prophetic authority, the truth he claims to speak. This second beast does exactly that. This should not surprise us :
(i) The Lord Jesus foretold this . "For false christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray , if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time." (Matt. 24:24,25)
(ii) The apostle Paul predicted that the man of lawlessness/sin should manifest himself in great signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9,10)
The false prophet causes mankind to make an image of the anti-christ (the image of Satan)! There is a profound depth of evil here . The intention is to supplant the image of God , who alone is to be worshipped (Mt. 4:10). Remember, that man was created in the image of God, but the satanic triad wants to change that and raise up in its place the image of the anti-Christ. It is the age old attempt of the fallen creature to be like God (Gen 3:5). However , this is utterly contemptible to God, and this is the reason why God's wrath is coming. God will not share His glory with any created being. (cf. Rom 1:18ff).
Now to be sure, this spirit of the anti-christ and that of the false prophet has been with mankind ever since the fall. You read of this in the O.T. False prophets have misled humanity since time immemorial. We read of it in the N.T. gospels, in the Acts and in the epistles. Every epistle deals in some way or another with anti-christian influences in the church. History is littered with the examples of those who were killed for the sake of the gospel - all those who refused to bow down to anti-Christian institutions (see Rev. 6:9). All this is very real , and it will continue to be so even more so as the Day of Christ approaches .
What about number of the beast – the number of man - 666 (vv. 16 - 18)
This verse has drawn much comment and speculation. But it is not as difficult as it is often made out to be. Take note of the following aspects:
1. As far as "a mark" is concerned , the Lord's own people are sealed with a mark on their foreheads (7:3 , 9:4), indicating that they are known to God and secure in Him.
2. The “mark of the beast” is in keeping with Satan's strategy of deceit and imitation. This mark seals Satan's subjects as his own. Many men and women (entering the broad road which leads to destruction) accept this mark, because it gives them a (false) sense of security and identity. They obtain temporary privileges such "buying and selling" i.e. earning their keep . It exploits the anxious nature of people refusing to trust in God , doing so at the risk of their own soul, and like Esau, who for a bowl of lentil stew sells his birthright - so they sell their birthright to Satan!
3. The marking does not need to be understood it a literal manner. This marking is a mark of the inner being – the heart ,and it is expressed in the thought life and in terms of the words which a person utters in terms of his / her belief system , which is either for or against God and His revealed Word.
4. What is the significance of the number 666? The most popular device for the unlocking of this mystery has been the "gematria" in which each letter of the alphabet is thought to have its own numerical equivalent. The Jewish Rabbis loved this method. Depending on your ingenuity, the number 666 can be worked out to mean almost anything you wish. People have worked out that “666” stands for the Roman empire, the popes, and even the Protestant Reformers. One writer, David Brady in a book entitled "The contribution of British writers between 1560 and 1830 to the interpretation of Rev 13:16-18 (The number of the beast) gives well over a hundred varying interpretations of the number 666 , some based on Hebrew, some on Greek and others on Latin gematria. I am not about to enter that fray! Let’s keep it simple. It is clearly stated here that this is the number of the beast - the number of man. The number 6 then falls short of seven, which is the divine number - the number of perfection. 666 is therefore the humanistic (creaturely) trinity - the counterfeit of the divine , pretending to be supreme in power and authority.
3. THE IMPLICATIONS UPON HUMANITY
In closing I want to briefly observe what the implications of all this might be for you and I, as we must take to heart what is written here. It is very clear that from the perspective of Scripture , there are two kinds of people in the world :
a. There are those , whose names are written in the Lamb’ s book of Life - the lamb that was slain from the creation of the earth. I note that these bear the mark of the lamb as we have pointed out in 7:3 and 9:4 and here in 13:8 . Are you among them?
b. It appears that the greater part of humanity will choose to walk in the way of the anti-Christ. May I therefore ask you once again: where you stand? And if you have seen that you do not stand with Christ , will you not this day flee from the wrath that is to come ? Will you not today receive the mark of the new birth - the sign and seal of your salvation in Christ ? His blood can wash the guilt and sin of your dark past away! Come to Him now . He has promised not to send you away , if you repent from your sin , and if you trust Him to free you from your real guilt before a holy God who will not forgive your sin , without atonement !