Sunday, July 27, 2014

REVELATION 13: 11 - 18 - “THE SECOND BEAST WHICH ARISES OUT OF THE EARTH“

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"[1].  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[2]) 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 "[3].

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 !

OUTLINE:
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 prophetRev. 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"[4] 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) [5]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 !



[1] Rev 12:9( three times) ,10,12 13
[2] See previous exposition
[3] P.E.Hughes : The book of Revelation, p.151
[4] The term gematria is a Hebrew adaptation of the Greek noun geometria
[5] P.E Hughes. Revelation, p 154n

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