Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 13:11-18
Chapter 22

In our study of Revelation 13:1-10 we became acquainted with John's vision of the beast out of the sea. Through the use of Daniel's prophecies and descriptions of the four beasts he saw, we know John's beast out of the sea is more than likely a great empire or kingdom, similar in nature and ferocity to the Roman Empire.

Just as Saddam Hussein and Iraq were synonymous in conjuring up visions of inhumanity during the Persian Gulf War, so too, are the coming empire and its ruler, synonymous. One cannot rightly consider one without the other, for it is the coupling of the two that makes for the horrendous conditions on earth during the Great Tribulation. It is "the prince that shall come" spoken of by Daniel, who will pervert the power and authority of this coming kingdom and it is this kingdom that will provide the vehicle for this demonic ruler to persecute Israel.

This explains why John describes two beasts back to back and why there are similarities in each description. The "Beast out of the sea" is the empire or kingdom that will be used to persecute Israel and the "Beast out of the earth" is the ruler of this kingdom and to speak of one is to speak of the other.

I. The Description of The Second Beast

"And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon" (Revelation 13:11).

The first point John makes in his description is that this beast is an earthly creature not a heavenly creature. This beast is not a fallen angel or some other form of heavenly being, he is "out of the earth," that is to say, he is a man created from the dust of the earth. He is human in every sense of the word. A fact clearly presented in Revelation 13:18, where he is called a man.

Because John is describing a man, we must realize his description in Revelation 13:11, "He had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon" is figurative speech.

The lamb is a characterization of this human beast's initial presentation of himself to Israel. He will appear to be Israel's Messiah when he makes his seven-year peace agreement with them. But then, this Antichrist will then speak like the dragon or Satan when he violates the agreement and defiles the temple by proclaiming himself to be god, demanding that Israel worship him. This will begin,

II. The Antichrist's Deadly Reign of Terror on the Earth

John begins to describe the Antichrist's reign in Revelation 13:12, "And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them who dwell on it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed."

From our study of Revelation 13:3, we know "the first beast whose deadly wound was healed" is like the Roman Empire. From history, we know that when Rome fell or was wounded to death, only the throne of the empire collapsed. The nations forming the empire continued to exist under new leaders.

The healing of the deadly wound means a throne like that of Rome will be re-established and the nations that formed the old Roman Empire will once again be under this throne, which will be occupied by the Antichrist. John is saying in Revelation 13:12, that this Antichrist will exercise all the power of the Roman Empire and will use this power to require that all the world worship this empire and himself as its emperor.

This is simply a re-institution of the emperor worship that began when the Roman Senate recognized Julius Caesar as deity and decreed his birthday be a holy day. His image was placed among the gods in the temple and his name was added to the hymns sung to the gods in Rome. Worship of Caesar and his throne spread around the world.

Indeed, canonization today descends from Roman deification and praying to a deified human being seemed no more wrong then, than prayer to a canonized human seems to some, today.

When the Antichrist comes to power, people around the world will gladly worship him as god. They will do so according to Revelation 13:13-14, because he has power to perform miracles and make fire come down from heaven in the sight of men.

"And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast, saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, that had the wound by a sword, and did live."
It is the ability to perform miracles that will deceive the nations into worshipping the Antichrist and his empire. They will think he is god because of his lying signs and wonders. "Making an image to the beast" is a reference to their idolatrous worship of the restored throne of Rome and its occupant.

How often people are fooled by the manifestation of miracles. Even today, let some people witness an event that is out of the ordinary and they are forever convinced they have seen the hand of God at work.

Quite often, those who see these miracles are also forever convinced they have some special relationship with God because they have been privileged to witness the event. However, it is not witnessing or being involved in some miracle that results in a special relationship with God. It is faith in the substitutionary death and resurrection of Christ that results in the only possible relationship with God. That relationship is being a child of God.

We know miracles occur, but the question that must always be asked is, "What is the source?" The source, as John describes in our text, is sometimes Satan. Also, the Apostle Paul issued a warning about Satan's tricks in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15,

"Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works."
Those who will believe the Antichrist is god because he works miracles will have only themselves to blame. People who put their faith in miracles are often deceived, but people who put their faith in Christ are always saved.

Next, in Revelation 13:15, John tells the extent of the idolatry accompanying the reign of the beast.

"And he hath power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed" (Revelation 13:15).
Just as ancient Rome deified Caesar and his image that was held in reverence around the Roman Empire, so too, will the image of the Antichrist be deified. As Roman soldiers were required to salute the image of Caesar, so too, will people be required to bow before the image of the beast.

The point John is making in this verse is not that the Antichrist has the ability to bring a graven image to life, but that all people will be required to treat an image of the Antichrist as if it is a living being and those who refuse to submit to this idolatry will be killed.

The Antichrist will not only demand that people worship him in his presence, but he will also demand that his image be worshipped as if it is alive. Ascribing life and deity to an inanimate object is among the most horrific of blasphemies, but we know from the Revelation that all the world will bow down in worship of this beast with the exception of the believing remnant of Israel and the Gentiles who assist them.

Because Israel will not worship him and because Satan hates Israel for being the nation through which the Savior came into the world, the Antichrist will persecute and attempt to destroy the Jews. It is an attempt to flush out Jews that will cause the Antichrist to enact a system to control trade in the world. Look at Revelation 13:16-17:

"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and enslaved, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads. And that no man might buy or sell, except he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
The words "buy or sell" indicate this is a system designed to control commerce in the world. This will be the means to force worship of the Antichrist and to exterminate those who refuse to worship him.

Notice carefully, Revelation 13:15, does not say the beast kills those who will not worship his image, it says he will cause them to be killed. Apparently, the methodology will not be to line people up and slaughter them. Rather, it will be to allow them to die from lack of the necessities of life, if they refuse to worship the beast.

All of humanity will be forced into this system. The "small and great" indicates those of every social group will be affected. The "rich and poor" tells us that wealth or lack of it will exempt no one. The "free and enslaved" means all people, those responsible for their own actions as well as those in subjection to others such as children, prisoners, institutional inmates, servants or employees will be under the system.

In addition, to buy or sell one must have in his right hand or in his forehead,

III. The Mark of the Beast

It could be that this mark is a literal mark similar to a tattoo on one's hand or on one's forehead. Or, it could mean a token that is carried or memorized. Or, it could mean all who work either with their hands or with their heads will be required to have an identifier issued by the government, to sell the fruits of their labors or buy from others.

The latter seems preferable because of the three groups identified in Revelation 13:17, as authorized to buy or sell. These three groups are:

(1) He that has the mark. This seems to mean the general populace not identified in the two other groups, i.e., those who work for a living using either their hands or their heads must have an identifier to buy or sell.

(2) He that has the name of the beast. This does not mean those who know or discover the name of the Antichrist. Certainly, the Antichrist will be known to all, just as the President of our own country is known to all. His identity will not be a secret. On the contrary, his image will be everywhere and people will be required to salute it or bow down in worship to it. His name and face will be known to all because they worship him.

What it does mean is this: Just as those in my family have my name, those who will have the name of the beast or Antichrist will be the members of his family. They will be allowed to buy or sell as they wish, because they are related to the Antichrist (remember, he is human).

(3) He that has the number of his name. Because those that refuse to worship the beast will not receive the mark or token of the beast with which to buy or sell, and because they are not members of his family and cannot use his name to conduct business, God has provided the way for them to buy and sell. They can use the beast's own number. It is this number that God will use to provide for His believing remnant. Look at Revelation 13:18:

"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred three score and six."
Over the centuries there has been endless speculation concerning the meaning of the number 666. Complicated systems which substitute numbers for letters of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew alphabets have been developed in attempts to identify the name of the Antichrist. Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar, Nero, Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, and even Henry Kissinger have all shared the dubious honor of being called the Antichrist. But none of these is "the prince that shall come."

Some expositors say seven is the number of perfection in Scripture and six is the number of imperfection. Therefore, they believe 666 must represent the unholy trinity of the Antichrist, false prophet and Satan, which are in stark anti-type to God, the Father, God, the Son and God, the Holy Spirit.

This conclusion may be true, but it does not explain how knowing this will allow one to buy or sell. It is interesting that most attempts to discover the name of the Antichrist through the use of 666 assume his name will be a secret. There is also the assumption that discovering the name will somehow negate, stymie or inhibit his rise to power. However, one only needs to read Revelation 13:13-14, to understand the Antichrist will not work in secret or try to keep his name unknown. Calling fire down out of heaven in the sight of men is not exactly a covert activity and spreading one's image around the world for people to worship is not the best way to maintain a secret identity.

The wisdom of this verse is simply that those who refuse to worship the Antichrist and believe the Word of God have the number 666, with which to buy and sell. Those that do not believe God will have no choices other than to worship the Antichrist and receive his mark, allowing them to buy and sell, or be killed for refusing to worship him.

If this explanation of this age old mystery sounds too simple, remember, God has always required and rewarded faith in what He reveals.

Today, the Scripture tells us plainly in Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Yet, multitudes laugh at the name of Jesus and use His name in vain, oblivious to the power of His name to save them from their sins.

Whether it be the name of Jesus or the number 666, there will be those who laugh, and those who take advantage of the salvation that is available through the use of each. Such is the Grace of God that He will allow every person to make his own decision and such is the justice of God that He will make every person responsible for his own decision.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006