Revelation 13:11  Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.

John sees in this vision another beast, not from the sea (people), but from the earth, which contrasts things that come from heaven and is, therefore, the antithesis of all things good. 

John 3:6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Acts 20:30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

I Corinthians 15:48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.

Philippians 3:18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

James 3:14 - 17 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  15Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

John’s description of this second beast shows forth a contradiction: “like a lamb” yet “spoke like a dragon.”  Unlike the beast that came up from the sea, which openly uttered blasphemies and had blasphemous names on its heads, this beast looks like a lamb but spoke like Satan.  The first beast depicts overt aggression while the second depicts those who come in the name of Jesus, even claiming to drive out demons in his name, while preaching the deception of the devil.  It is Satan’s direct onslaught on the church.

Isaiah 9:14, 15 So the LORD will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day.  15The elders and prominent men are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail.

Jeremiah 5:31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?

II Corinthians 11:13 - 15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

II Thessalonians 2:9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.

Jude 1:4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

The sea and earth, in terms of John’s visions, come together in these two beasts.  The first beast loudly protesting and agitating against the Lamb while the second beast, as the spirit of Satan with man’s old nature as his henchman, in the guise of a counterfeit Jesus, stealthily sowing seeds of discord among believers.

Matthew 7:15, 16  "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

Mark 13:6 Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many.

Our defense is careful discernment and judgment of the fruits of all those who claim to be Christians.  The work of the second beast includes proclamations that we ought not to judge others meaning that we should not exercise any judgment, thereby attempting to further conceal his true identity. Hence Jesus’ instruction: “By their fruit you will recognize them.”

Revelation 13:12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.

The beast from the earth received his authority from the beast from the sea who, in turn, received his authority from Satan, the dragon.

John’s vision reveals to us the structure of Satan’s attack on the church.  He has assembled for himself a triune devil simulating the Trinity so that he might approach the believers in a guise as close to the triune God as is possible. This satanic triune devil is composed of the dragon, Satan, who placed himself as the first person of this satanic composition (that was to be expected); the beast from the sea, the antichrist, as the second person; the beast from the earth as the third person, or the spirit of evil.

We see the works of the second beast simulate the work of the Holy Spirit by causing the people to worship the first beast, the second person of this unholy alliance.  The second beast is not a visible, physical force, as the first beast is, who is recognizable and who is visibly the antichrist, denying that Jesus is the Son of God.  The second beast is a greater threat to the church than the first beast because it is able to masquerade as an angel of light, present the gospel in a way that, at first, subtly denies Jesus, and perform miracles and wonders attempting to mislead the elect.

Matthew 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.

II Thessalonians 2:9 – 12 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

As the Holy Spirit prepares the heart of believers to worship Christ, so this third person of the devil-alliance prepares the world to worship the first beast.  It is interesting to note the repetition of the reference to the fatal wound that was healed.  The fatal wound and healing was a counterfeit performance of Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection to amaze the people and to deceive those who are willing to believe the lie, in the first place, and to disparage Jesus’ meritorious sacrifice, in the second place.  The rise of the second beast and his lamblike appearance tell us that his intention is to mislead those who look to the Lamb as their Savior.  This so-called miraculous healing of his fatal wound would be the main instrument by which Satan would convince the world that he should be worshiped instead of Jesus Christ.  As he performs great and miraculous signs in the guise of the Messiah, people will stand astonished, quite prepared to believe different things than that what the Scriptures testify, and so start a divergence from the truth.

Revelation 13:13 And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.

In his attempt to mislead the people, he performs great and miraculous signs. John does not specifically say what kinds of miraculous signs he performs, except, as we shall see in the next verse, when they were instructed to make an image.

We know that, in accordance with II Thessalonians 2:9 that the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.  These counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders will be accompanied by every sort of evil deceiving those who are perishing.

Who are these who are perishing? 

They are the ones who refused to love the truth and so be saved.  As we have seen in our study of the doctrine of the book of life, when we dealt with the cherubim and flaming sword protecting the tree of life and Jesus speaking in parables, here too, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe Satan’s lie.  All, who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness, will be condemned.

Fire has from the beginning been a sign that God used to show his presence or execute his judgment.

Leviticus 9:24 Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.

II Kings 1:10  Elijah answered the captain, "If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!" Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.

Even this sign is usurped by the devil and used here to deceive those who witness it.  John tells us that this happened, not in isolation, but in “full view of men”, so that nobody can deny that it happened.  It would be impossible for believers to denounce it because what they witness and what believers quote from the Scriptures would appear to be the same making it impossible for those who perish to believe God and very difficult for believers to remain faithful.

Mark 13:20 If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.

Revelation 13:14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.

By this unholy alliance, Satan is able to perform signs that deceive the inhabitants of the earth.  From the study of verse 13 we see the terrible power of these signs and miracles that Satan performs, all with the exclusive intent that even a single believer should turn from Christ and worship him, thus invalidating God’s Divinity and the integrity of the book of life.

It is clear that this interpretation is correct from the temptation with which Satan confronted Christ, which had as its sole theme that Christ would bow down and worship him.  He failed to tempt Christ into rebellion against his Father, but he succeeded in tempting Adam and Eve into such rebellion.  His desire to defeat Christ’s church is fueled by his hatred for God and his people, which is why Scripture refers to Satan as a roaring lion seeking whom he could devour.  He sets up this onslaught against the elect to cause the failure of the elect; even one single member’s failure would be sufficient.

To prevent those who refuse to believe the truth from claiming the promises and rewards of the believers, God sends them a powerful illusion to believe Satan’s lies, while He holds the believers in the palm of his hand, where no one could snatch them away.

As we have seen in a previous lesson, Romans 8 clearly tells us who are those that believe the lie and who not.

Romans 8:6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. 7The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.

The words “nor can it do so” tell us that God knows their hearts thoroughly and they are intent on hating Him regardless of the testimony of the Scriptures. So, those who consider this earth their home and their refuge will believe the lies and deceptions while those who have their minds set on the Spirit, will see through the deception, having heard God’s warnings about them beforehand and believed.  It is no accident that Christians are taught to consider this life a tent in which they sojourn for a little while, and that they should reach out to eternal life in God’s presence that is theirs.  It is to protect them from the lies and deceit of Satan even when fire comes down from the heavens; even when someone claims to have come from God as a latter day prophet denying that Jesus is the Son of God; even when someone performs the most miraculous wonders and signs; even when they drive out demons in Jesus’ name. 

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.

I Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

Satan’s purpose is to establish for himself a worshiping relationship with the people and to accomplish that, he has to appear godlike in his actions, which explains his fraudulent presentation of a triune copy of the Godhead. By the sheer power of hypocrisy, the peoples of the world shall worship him.

Revelation 13:14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.

To set up for himself a worshiping relationship with the peoples of the earth and exploit their old natures for his own gain, he orders them to set up an image in honor of the beast that simulates Christ, which is evident from what John says, “… the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.”  It is the closest he will get to deceiving the believers by placing on earth an image that they might confuse with that of Christ.

The early church, upon reading this, must have concluded that it referred to the Roman leaders who bestowed upon themselves divine powers and called themselves gods.  If we look at the definition of the antichrist, we see that the antichrist is not a particular person, but it could be many people.  Sinful actions could represent the spirit of the antichrist.  It will be helpful to read those particular Scripture passages again:

I John 2:22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist--he denies the Father and the Son.

I John 4:3 But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus, is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

II John 1:7  Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

The early church was right, the Roman Caesars were antichrists.  Similarly are all Muslims antichrists; the believers of the LDS church doctrine are antichrists; and all atheists, of course are antichrists.  The early reformed church even called the Pope of Rome the antichrist because of that church’s doctrine regarding the body and blood of Christ, but they removed that reference about the Pope because the simple language of the Roman Church Catechism acknowledges Christ as the Son of God.

Revelation 13:15 He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.

The dragon, Satan, gave power to the second beast to provide the image with a spirit so that it could speak.  In chapter 13:2 we read that the dragon gave the first beast his power and he now gives power to the second beast to provide the image with life.  This life should not be seen as some physical life but rather that the false doctrine would be so alive and vibrant that it would appear to have the promises and rewards of a life contrary to that promised by the gospel.  The people of the earth would marvel at this image and be astonished by it. 

Having now set up not only a triune alliance mimicking that of the Godhead, Satan now established an image to rival the Spirit of God in the church; the battleground on which Satan will confront the work of the Holy Spirit. 

John mentions that the image would be able to speak, which is a very significant attribute of the image in this vision.  Being able to speak represents its ability to preach false doctrines, mimicking the worship service; proclaim certain ceremonies as wholesome and good, mimicking the sacraments; punishing dissidents, mimicking the church’s discipline.

Satan tolerates no dissension and he kills all those who refuse to worship the beast.  The door to martyrdom is established and it will remain open throughout this life. 

Since the earliest times dissension from beliefs was punished by death.  Since the seventh century, clerics, in the name of God, brutally murdered millions of people who refused to worship the doctrine of Islam.  The Roman Church, in the name of Christ, murdered millions of people who denounced their false doctrines.  Millions more are destined to die for their faith before the Second Coming of Christ.  We ought not to identify this particular event in history or that event as proof that we have reached the time of the beast and his image, but the entire history of mankind, from the fall to Christ’s return, spans the influence of the beast.

Daniel 3:5, 6 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.  6Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.

He deceived most of the Israelites throughout their history and when the Messiah came, Satan deceived most of the Jews into not believing that Jesus is the Messiah, even though Jesus perfectly fit the prophecies and what the psalms said about Him.  This very day Christians are dying because of their faith; powerful delusions are given men in powerful positions steering the history of the world.  In some countries the church experience relative peace, but underlying the silence is ample evidence that the image of Satan is at work in our midst, even as we speak.

We ought not to think that Satan is less active in religiously peaceful countries; he is just at work in a different manner, cunning as he is.  It would be a fateful mistake to engage the American public in the same tactical warfare than what he employs in the Middle East, for example.  Here, he has to be subtle and patient.  In other countries, he may be bold and violent.  What would not have worked in this country a century ago is already in practice today and has devastating effects among believers.

Hypocrisy, double standards, lies, deception, dishonesty, and complacency are some of the danger signs that the image of the beast is in our very bosom.  We ought to resist even the slightest variations to the gospel because Satan is patient and if dissension can be planted in the heart of someone today, he would be quite happy to have it bloom to full-blown schism in a following generation or millennium.  Compromises for the sake of numerical church growth, peace or good relations ought not to intrude on our first duty as worshipers of Christ.

Revelation 13:16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead.

The reference to “small and great, rich and poor, free and slave” indicates that no one would be spared. This mark would be put on every person.  As Satan has done with the other signs and things, he also copied this sign from God to mislead and confuse the believers.  Let us read how these marks on the right hand and forehead are marks used by God:

Exodus 13:9 This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the LORD is to be on your lips. For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.

Deuteronomy 6:8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

Deuteronomy 11:18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

The mark is received on the right hand and forehead to indicate that the labor and thoughts of the wearer belong to the one whose mark it is.  The sign that God place on his people are their visible obedience and sacrifice that worshiping him brings about.  The Israelites had to tie the law of God on their foreheads and hands in order to signify that their thoughts and actions were in submission to the Word of God. Similarly, the beast demands that those who wear his mark, should wear it on their foreheads and their right hands.

What is this mark? We do not know exactly what form it will take, except to say that it, too, is a copy of one of God’s institutions: the baptism, and from that we may infer that it would not be a physical tattoo or insignia.  Although we do not wish to speculate, it would be reasonable inference to assume that the appearance of the mark would be another counterfeit of the real mark, as it has as its sole purpose to mislead and confuse.  Jesus spelled this out, not only to the Pharisees in particular, but to us all in general, to warn us of the nature of these assaults against us.

John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Matthew 24:5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

The apostles wrote the same thing.

Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

Colossians 2:4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.

Just as baptism is a sign that the recipient belongs to Christ and is included into his community, so does this mark of the beast show that those who bear it belong to Satan.  Baptized persons enjoy the rights and privileges of Christian membership, such as being catechized into the faith gaining a knowledge of God; exposed to the mysteries of God’s kingdom; and the blessings and joy associated with Christianity.  Without this mark, one is excluded from the blessings and joy of church membership and communion with the saints.

Satan’s mark also has privileges and threats attached to it.

Revelation 13:17 So that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

The threat of not bearing Satan’s mark is the depravation of earthly privileges.  Satan’s purpose is to deprive all those who refuse to accept his mark of all earthly benefits thus depraving believers of the right to earn a living or enjoy the temporary blessings of God.

Some have argued that a centralized banking system would be the start of the implementation of the mark of the beast, while others argued that it is a universal identity card for all citizens.  The United Nations, a one world-government and an International Court, some maintain, are all furthering the process of the installation of the mark of the beast.

What are we to do about these predictions and irrefutable evidence that Satan has increasing influence in world affairs, threatening the lives of Christians increasingly everyday?  The first thing we have to remember is that there is a very strict, critical timeline in God’s plan and providence.  To assume that we can either speed up the Second Coming of Christ, or delay the great suffering that is about to come, is to deny that God is in control.  Or, we assume that God is waiting on us to accomplish something before He can proceed, which is absurd.

Should we, then, aimlessly accept that the world is becoming a more hostile place for believers?  Should we resist the devil and his henchmen even though we know that we cannot hasten Christ’s return or delay Satan’s onslaught?

The answer to the first question is ‘no’ we should not aimlessly accept that the world is becoming more hostile to believers.  We ought to vigorously resist the devil and all evil, not believing that we can change, delay or hasten the outcome, but to proclaim the gospel and preach it as boldly as our talents allow, at every opportunity.  But why, especially if the outcome and the time it will come about is a product of the Infinite?  Because the salvation of the elect occurs through the preaching of the word of God by men and women who boldly proclaim it; through the spoken word and through the conduct of their lives, whether they live or die for Christ.  There are no limits to the courage expected from believers for the sake of one of the elect that is in need of salvation.  While burning at the stake during the Reformation, brave children preached the gospel to professors and doctors of theology in their last gasps before being carried off to the bosom of Abraham.  Collectively, the blood of these martyrs made the gospel a very precious commodity and something to be revered as they brought about the greatest about-turn from heresy to the truth in all of Christianity. 

We would not always know whether the person persecuting us is a member of the elect, and we would not know what it is in our conduct and our words, that either send him further away from salvation or draw him near.  That is why Scripture gives us instructions in this regard.

Mark 13:11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

Luke 12:12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.

John speaks in this verse about the number of the beast’s name, which is a mysterious representation of his name in a certain numbering context, through which Satan’s being is symbolized.

Revelation 13:18  This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.

John admonishes us to engage in wise and patient endurance, as he did at the end of verse 10.  We ought to be intuitive in our reasoning about what follows.  Wisdom and insight are connected in many ways in Scripture, such as in Rev 17:9 “This calls for a mind with wisdom.”  Solomon received wisdom and insight. (I Kings 4:29). “He was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom …” (Daniel 5:11).  “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” (Philippians 1:9).  Similarly, we have to engage our insight to understand John’s vision about the beast’s number, which is 666.  We also learn that the same number is also man’s number and John constructs his sentence in such a way that it reveals to us a cause and effect.  Six hundred and sixty six is the number of the beast because it is the number of man.  In various ways the calculation of the beast’s name through the number 666 points to a certain person that will appear on the world stage in the future, and Christians ought to take notice of this appearance and the way in which believers would be mislead. God promises wisdom for us to understand and recognize these things.

Psalm 107:43 Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD.

It would be helpful to read the whole Psalm 107 to see this last verse in context.

Hosea 14:9 Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

The number 666 can be explained in many ways, so we will not attempt to exhaust all the possibilities here.  We will explain two possibilities:

First, in the Greek and Hebrew alphabets it is customary to use the letters of the alphabet as numbers and to substitute letters in a name with their corresponding numbers to calculate the value of a name.  Early Christians already calculated that Nero’s name added up to 666. 

Second, the symbolic value of numbers in the book of Revelation has specific meaning in the different contexts. The number 7, for instance, depicts God’s completeness or sufficiency in his dealings with the world.  Elevate the single 7 to 777 and it symbolizes the majestic revelation of God. 

Since the antichrist desires to be equal to God …

II Thessalonians 2:4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

he, too, is known by either 6, or if elevated, to 666, which is a number less than that of God.  Although his number still indicates a horrific exaltation against God, it is not sufficient to counter God’s power and ability to destroy him and all his henchmen. 

[1]At the center point of the book John sees visions that disclose the core of the conflict that manifests itself in various visible symptoms and struggles in the seven Asian churches and our churches today.  Why do those churches face opposition from “those who say they are Jews” but area synagogue of Satan? Why the social pressure from the cult of the emperor “where Satan’s throne is”? Why are they threatened internally by the seduction of the Nicolaitans’ and the prophetess Jezebel’s deceptive teaching or the lethal complacency that afflicted the Laodiceans? Why does the church today in Sudan, China, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere suffer persecution?  Why does the church in Europe, North America, and elsewhere languish in spiritual boredom in the midst of economic prosperity?

Because we are engaged in spiritual warfare, locked in mortal combat against a foe whose strength and cunning are intimidating: a dragon with seven heads and ten horns.  Yet, our foe has been defeated decisively by the One who came in weakness, the seed of the woman, the Lamb whose blood overcame the dragon on behalf of all those who hold the testimony of Jesus.

But, the dragon, though thwarted, defeated, hemmed in, prevented from devouring the child or drowning his mother in lethal lies, is not dead.  His time is short, and in this short time – a mere time, two times, and half a time between the child’s ascent to God’s throne and his descent as the conquering captain of heaven’s cavalry – the dragon unleashes his emissaries against the rest of the woman’s seed.  Therefore, the church is called to endure in faith and hope until the end.  The messianic pretensions of Rome, its predecessors and its successors, are expressed in its coercion, threat, and violence against the church.

Institutional religion too often plays into the hands of the state, supporting its pseudo-messianic claims ad justifying its persecuting aggression against those who will not confess, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Through John’s central vision we have glimpsed the deep spiritual struggle that lies behind history’s surface events, the combat between the woman’s seed and the dragon, between Christ and Satan.  We have seen that the dragons’ present aggression, expressed in the beast’s violent force and false prophet’s lies, is no more than a frustrated reaction to his decisive defeat and rapidly approaching destruction.  With these God-given insights into the core of the cosmic conflict, believers in Jesus, the Lamb, can meet the dragon’s worst with endurance and faith – as victors through the blood of the Lamb.

[1] Reworked from Dennis E. Johnson’s “Triumph of the Lamb”.