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A. After three weeks off, we are jumping back into the middle of the book of Revelation. (hand-out)
1. The bad news and the good news about the age in which we live (between the comings of Christ)
2. After the seven trumpets, we are introduced to three characters which will be present in this drama until the dramatic judgment scene in ch.20.
B. We’ve already met the first two characters: the great red dragon and the first beast.
1. The dragon – who went after the woman and her offspring – is Satan (Rev.12:9).
2. And then the first beast is the antichrist, a political ruler who both opposes Christ and seeks to usurp His position. (We saw that there seems to be a double meaning here. The first beast is an individual who will live near the end of history, but there are also many preliminary fulfillments of antichrist during history – 1John 2:18 “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.” (Cf. 1John 4:3, 2John7.) In other words, though there is an antichrist tyrant coming at the end of history, there are many lesser antichrists who will appear down through history. And so it seems that the beast is not just the future Antichrist with a capital A, but the spirit of antichrist through this present time period.)
C. But there’s a third character to add to this drama. Today we learn about a second beast who is in cahoots with the dragon and the first beast, a beast who will later be referred to as the false prophet.
D. Rev.13:11-18 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
II. Three observations about the second beast from a bird’s eye view:
A. Unlike the first beast, the second beast does religious work. It:
1. Promotes worship 12
2. Performs miracles 13-14
3. Conducts ecclesiastical discipline, punishing people who won’t worship 15-17
4. Later we see it also prophesies: called the false prophet in Rev.16:13; 19:20; 20:10.
5. All of these are essentially religious activities. And that’s the sphere in which this beast operates.
B. The 2nd beast is a promoter of the first beast, getting earth’s inhabitants to worship the first beast.
1. 12 It...makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.
2. Notice the stark contrast between how this beast looks and what it does.
3. Remember that the great red dragon was hideous with its seven heads and ten horns (Rev.12:3).
4. Well, in contrast this 2nd beast has the appearance of a lamb (v.11). But it speaks for the dragon!
5. The first beast spoke loudly and defiantly against God.
6. This second beast influences not so much by intimidation but by subtlety & allure – like the serpent in the garden who deceived Adam & Eve.
7. The second beast makes the first beast’s claims sound plausible and persuasive.
8. It appears harmless as a lamb, but what it promotes is Satanic, for it speaks with the authority of the dragon.
C. One of the things Bible students have noticed down through the centuries in this part of Revelation here is the Satanic imitation of the Trinity. In other words, the dragon (Satan) and the first beast (the antichrist) and the second beast (the false prophet) form a counterfeit trinity.
1. As the Son receives authority from the Father (2:27; 3:21), so the first beast receives authority from the dragon (13:4).
2. As Christ dies & is resurrected (1:18, 5:6), so the beast appears as slain & is resurrected (13:3,14).
3. As the Lamb of God is worshiped by “a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues,” (Rev.7:9, Dan. 7:13-14), so the beast is served by “every tribe and people and tongue and nation” (Rev.13:7).
4. As the Spirit glorifies the Son (Jn.16:14), so the 2nd beast glorifies the 1st beast (Rev.13:12-15).
5. As Jesus did many signs and wonders to point people to His truth, so the second beast performs great signs to deceive those who dwell on earth (Rev.13:13-14).
6. And just as the three persons are mentioned together in several verses (e.g. Matt.28:19, 2Cor.13:14), so the three parts of the counterfeit trinity are mentioned together in:
a. Revelation 16:13 I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits...
b. Rev.20:10 The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever & ever.
c. As we’ll see in a moment, this counterfeit trinity is also connected to the number 666 in v.18.
7. The first and second beasts are the helpers of the dragon in his mission to make war against the members of Christ’s church (Rev.12:17).
D. So, if the first beast is the antichrist, what is the second beast? Is it the antiHS? Yes and no.
1. The second beast is the false prophet, the one who speaks falsehoods in the name of God.
2. The second beast is the religious arm of this satanic trio.
3. Many have taken the first beast to be a political power and the second beast to be a religious power, each working hand in hand under the guidance of Satan.
4. In some ways it seems to represent false religion and the counterfeit church – and also a counterfeit Holy Spirit who empowers and indwells false religion and the counterfeit church.
5. The first beast represented a threat from outside the church; this second beast represents a threat from the inside – the threat of the “false prophet.”
III. Two strange things in this passage:
A. The first one is satanic miracles.
1. 13-14 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth,
2. Matthew 24:24 "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”
3. 2Thessalonians 2:9 “the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders.”
4. This is like how the Egyptian sorcerers duplicated the signs/wonders of Moses in Exod.7:11-12.
5. In fact, verse 13 seems to continue the theme of Moses and Elijah which we have seen before, with the two witnesses in Rev.11:6.
a. 13 “It performs great signs (Moses – Exod.4:17, 30; 10:2), even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people (Elijah – 1Kings 18:38-39; 2Kings 1:10-14).”
b. In both stories, Moses and Elijah had opponents who tried to imitate their powers, with limited success. This false Moses and Elijah performs signs and wonders just like the Egyptian adversaries of Moses did (Exod.7:11-12).
6. But notice in v.14 that these signs are “the signs which it is allowed to work.” They can do this because God allows them to do it.
B. The second is the number 666.
1. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
2. Verse 18 is one of the most debated verses in the entire book of Revelation because of disagreement over the identification and meaning of the number 666.
3. And there have been many theories about which particular man this refers to.
a. In the second century Irenaeus speculated about who it might be. All of his suggestions are men that we don't even know about today (see Mounce, p.264).
4. The most popular device that has been used for trying to solve this riddle is "gematria," which is a way of calculating based on the numerical system of using letters to stand for numbers, which was generally the way that numbers were symbolized in ancient languages.
a. But no reasonable guess adds up to 666 neatly. Many attempts have been made to adjust spellings and incorporate titles to try to make names fit, but nothing conclusive has emerged.
b. The most common solution proposed today is Nero Caesar. You can get a variant reading of Nero’s name to add up to 616, but that’s still not 666. To get Nero to be 666 involves taking the Hebrew transliteration of the name instead of its regular Greek form, which seems far-fetched. Not only this, but no ancient writer proposed the name Nero as the solution to the 666.
c. One scholar named David Brady studied the theories about the meaning of the 666 which were proposed by British writers from 1560-1830 and wrote a book “The Contribution of British Writers between 1560 and 1830 to the Interpretation of Revelation 13:16-18.” He lists well over a hundred varying interpretations of the number 666, some based on Hebrew, some on Greek, some on Latin, which were all confidently proposed during that 270 year period by British writers. Included are Roman emperors, popes, Protestant Reformers, famous figures of the time including John Wesley.
d. If an interpreter is determined and creative, he can figure out a way to make his theory add up to 666. The reason there are so many proposals is because it is easy to turn a name into a number, but so very difficult to determine the right name from a number.
e. One scholar named Salmon poked fun at the whole thing by summarizing the methods being used:
(1) First, if the proper name by itself will not yield 666, add a title.
(2) Secondly, if the sum cannot be found in Greek, try Hebrew, or even Latin.
(3) Thirdly, do not be too particular about the spelling.
(4) He then concluded: “We cannot infer much from the fact that a key fits the lock if it is a lock in which almost any key will turn.” (G. Salmon, An Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament [London: Murray, 1904], 230–31).
f. “If the number were intended to be identified with some ruler by means of such calculation, it would be a rare exception from the way numbers are employed elsewhere in the book.” – Beale
5. But maybe that whole approach is wrong. Maybe there’s a better way to look at this 666.
a. "the number is that of a man" or "the number is that of man"
b. Six is the day Adam and Eve were made.
c. Goliath was 6 cubits and a span, the head of his spear weighed 6 shekels.
d. Nebuchadnezzar's image was 60 cubits high and 6 wide.
e. Just before Solomon apostasized, he received 666 talents of gold (1Kings10:14; 2Chron.9:13).
f. Jesus was crucified on the sixth day at the sixth hour.
g. The sixth seal, the sixth trumpet, and the sixth bowl depict God’s judgment on wicked mankind.
h. And, since seven is the number of perfection, six is less than perfect, and 666 is the trinity of imperfection, meaning ultimate imperfection, perpetual imperfection.
6. Verse 18 begins: “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast.”
a. John is calling God’s people to have spiritual and moral discernment, not mere intellectual ability to solve a complex mathematical problem, which unbelievers as well as believers are mentally capable of solving.
7. The number three in the Bible signifies completeness as in the completeness of the Trinity, which is parodied and counterfeited by the dragon, beast, and false prophet here in Rev.12-13. Therefore, 666, the repetition of six three times, may refer to the “complete incompleteness” found in counterfeit trinity, implying that the number of the divine Trinity would be three sevens.
IV. Beloved, this is written to us to inform us that we are under assault. There is a team of evil forces united against the people of Christ, seeking to lure them away from their Savior.
A. And specifically in this passage, we learn that the spirit of antichrist expresses itself within the sphere of religion and even in the church (1John 2:18, 22; 4:1–3; 2 John 7).
1. The religious and the non-religious are actually in cahoots in opposing Christ.
2. “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” 2Corinthians 11:14
3. Religion is one of Satan’s greatest ways of deceiving, because when you speak in the name of God, many people listen.
4. This is why we are not pro-religion. We are pro-Christ.
5. And we’re not even pro-every Christ, for there are counterfeit christs which are as false as atheism. But there’s only one true Christ.
6. Now I’m not suggesting that our church has a corner on the true Christ.
7. But I am saying what the NT says, that there are false christs and false prophets.
8. Jesus said,“Many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many...11 And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.” Matthew 24:5, 11
9. False christs might bear a resemblance to the true Lamb, just as counterfeit money bears a resemblance to real money, but false christs and false prophets serve the serpent.
10. In OT Israel, there was often an evil tyrant on the throne. And one of things these tyrants did to maintain their power over the people was to hire prophets to prophecy in ways that would promote and protect the power of the tyrant.
a. You can see this clearly in the story of Ahab and Micaiah in 2Chronicles 18.
b. This is still going on today. I’m not saying that I believe in some conspiracy theory that some political ruler out there is coercing religious leaders to promote their agenda. Whether or not that’s true, there is certainly a satanic conspiracy going on which is doing this.
11. Matthew 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (See also 2Pet.2:1-3.)
B. Also in this passage we learn again about economic persecution, as in Revelation 2:9; 6:5-6.
1. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.
2. Just as cattle are branded to designate ownership and slaves were given a mark to show who their master was, and just as the saints were sealed by God on their foreheads in Rev.7:3, 14:1, 22:4, so this beast gives society’s “stamp of approval” to those who go along with its religious demands.
3. Folks are willing to receive this mark of the beast because it’s their ticket of protection/prosperity.
4. Marketplace and employment persecution has been one of the primary means of persecution down through the centuries.
5. Many of our brethren live under this every day. Ask Melanie how it happens in Japan.
6. And it’s happening in our society as well, though often in subtle ways. Increasingly, companies are making it harder and harder for Christian workers to succeed in their work without participating in the idolatries of the culture.
a. If you believe that there is Something which is ultimately true and which determines what is right and wrong, and to which we must submit, or if you don’t believe in doing whatever it takes to increase the bottom line, or if you don’t believe in celebrating the LGBTQ+ agenda, or if you aren’t willing to burn the candle at both ends in order to succeed, then you get left behind.
7. Only those who would rather die than compromise their faith will refuse the mark of the beast, in spite of the consequences. They know you can’t serve both masters.
8. This helps separate those who have true faith from those who have false faith.
C. This passage reminds us of the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue of in Daniel 3.
1. Rev.13:14-15 talks about this second beast arranging for an image of the first beast to be made, and giving the image breath and empowering it to speak, and then causing those who refuse to worship the image to be slain. That’s the same as Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue.
2. So here Christians are being called to persevere in the fire like Daniel’s friends did.
3. And we know that believers are protected by the son God, who is present with them in the fire. They have been sealed by God (Rev.7:3, 9:4). They might suffer and even die, but they will receive the ultimate reward of eternal life (20:4).
4. Unbelievers, on the other hand, may receive temporary prosperity, but in the end will be punished with eternal death (see Rev.14:9-11).
5. Fortunately, if you truly belong to Christ, He has put His seal upon you to ultimately protect you and preserve you from Satan’s designs.
6. But if you don’t truly belong to Christ, then flee to Him today. Run to Him right now. He is your only hope. He is a mighty fortress where His people are shielded and nourished.