(cf. Rev. 13:11-18)
In verse 11, we have the second beast coming up out of the earth. Some see the first beast is the world government of Rome, and I think that goes back to Babylon which is going to be used in chapter 17, and the image of the coming kingdoms in Daniel 2. They would say the first beast is Imperial Rome, and the second beast is Religious Rome. There’s some truth in that, but I think this probably represent the Conciliar in John’s day that pushed Emperor worship and enforced it if someone wouldn’t do it. I think in the end-times it’s going to come to something like this and I do see a satanic trinity here because there’s so much parody here between what God’s trying to do and what the devil is trying to do. Some say these two beasts are the mimic of the two witnesses of chapter 11; there may be some truth in that because he’s going to call down fire from heaven which sounds just like what Elijah did back in 1 Kings 18:36, and what the two witnesses are described looks like back in Rev. 11:6, so that may be the background here. “…and he had two horns like a lamb…” – obviously another parody of Christ. “…and he spoke as a dragon.” – here is his true nature, “…and he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.” – sounds kind of like a parody of the Holy Spirit who points men to Christ. tis second beast will point men to the first beast. Now notice where it mentions, “He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence.” – he’s not a competitor; he’s someone who’s going to facilitate, and he makes the earth, and its inhabitants worship the wild beast whose fatal wounds had been healed.
Verse 13, “He performs great signs (present tense over and over),”. These great signs (or wonders) are going to cause the world to believe in him. Similar said, this is another example of how the two witnesses back in chapter 11 who awed the whole world by their wonders. Now, this wild beast is going to do signs and wonders and lead these fickle people to the worship of the beast. I think it’s a good example of something we need to hear in our day, when we’re so concerned about miracles that in Matthew 24:24 where it says, in the end-times are going to come those who can do signs and wonders. You might want to see Mark 13:22 and 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 where it talks about that at the end-times, there’s going to be not only an intensification of evil, but an intensification of miracles done by these false prophets. As a matter of fact, this wild beast from here on, is called the false prophet (cf. Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). “He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform…” – now, he’s going to get a statue that looks like the beast. He’s going to impart life to it, and the statue is going to say, “everybody who doesn’t worship me be killed.” Now, is this a real miracle of giving life to something? Well, I think only God has that power, so it’s either a trickery or there is some real power in evil. I think both are true, but I don’t think evil is as powerful as God. I think Satan does have tremendous power but not so much as to bring something to life; so, it’s a trick.
Notice that the Saints are going to be killed if they don’t have this mark of the beast mentioned in verse 16. Now this word ‘mark’ means an animal brand. Back in the end of the first century, we know that slaves were branded. Sometimes, soldiers took on a tattoo of their general; this could be a possible allusion. Some say because it’s on the forehead, it’s maybe a way to mimic the Jewish use of phylacteries, – I’m not sure. Some say it’s just the number of this beast, and this is very interesting. Notice in verse 18, we get into this number of the beast. It says it’s a number of a certain man. I think we would a bit taken off when we say a certain man, because we’ll be looking for a proper name. In Greek, the first nine letter of the alphabet were used for the units, the next for the tens. And so, if you add it all up the closest we can come is ‘Nero Caesar’ written in Hebrew with a variant spelling. If you add up the numbers for Jesus, you get 888, which is one better that perfection. If you add the number of man, it’s 666, which is powerful but one less than perfection. And so, I think it kind of shows that this 666 is a number for the world governments; they look so powerful, they look strong, but they really fall short. I think that’s what it is. It’s just more than just trying to figure out who this is. And it will amaze you at how we tried to put this on different individuals through time. It seems to me we’re always trying to force the book of Revelation into our historical circumstances, our cultural setting, and we get the wildest interpretations. I don’t think God’s trying to hide truth from us. But this book is written in a way to describe end-time events in light of 1st century events. So, one reason we don’t fully able to explain or interpret this is because we don’t have the proper setting yet. Now we can see it in Rome somewhat, but I think when the last generation finally arrives, these symbols and imagery will begin to make more sense to those Christians, because throughout this chapter it kept saying that the beast and his henchmen are going to trick everybody in the world except the believers. As a matter of fact, in Matthew 24 it talked about these signs and wonders would lead people, even the elect astray, if possible, but God’s people are going to know, and God’s people are going to be protected because they’ve got the mark. The 144,000 are protected by God from Satan’s trickery. They may die. They may suffer persecution, but they’re going to be protected from God’s plagues, and they’re protected from the satanic trick. This was a real encouragement for the 1st century Christians who underwent persecution. I think it’s an encouragement for the persecuted Christians in every age, and a real encouragement for the last generation who will struggle with an anti-God world system knowing that God’s in control. Why God gave permission to the devil to inspire these two beasts? We don’t know yet, but God’s in control. God’s working it out. God’s sovereign. There is a purpose for evil; exactly what it is we don’t know. But those of us who know Christ have been sealed. We’re redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We’re safe. We’re eternally secure. Hang in there little flock, it will be worth it all when we see Him! Maranatha!