Revelation #23 Revelation 13:11-18: End Times, War Against Believers: The Beast From The Earth


Revelation #23  Revelation 13:11-18:  End Times, War Against Believers: The Beast From The Earth


The dragon failing to kill the Messiah is thrown out of the throne room of God. The dragon failing to destroy the Heavenly Woman, now wages a proxy war against the members of the Church.  The Dragon has delegated its power to the Beast from the Sea. It is through this Beast that the members of the Church are being persecuted.  The Beast conquers a believer when it coerces or tricks a follower of Jesus to renounce their faith.


In search of the historical context, we have found that the Roman Empire and the head of the Roman Empire are the weapons of war used by the Dragon. The Beast from the Sea is Emperor Domitian, he is John’s anti-Christ. It was suggested that any government that oppresses and persecutes the disciples of Jesus, personified in the leader of that government is a Beast.


The Dragon calls another Beast to aid the first.  This Beast rises out of the ground. Let’s figure out who or what this Beast is.


Revelation 13:11-18 (MSG)

11 I saw another Beast rising out of the ground. It had two horns like a lamb but sounded like a dragon when it spoke. It was a puppet of the first Beast, made earth and everyone in it worship the first Beast, which had been healed of its deathblow.

13 This second Beast worked magical signs, dazzling people by making fire come down from Heaven.  It used the magic it got from the Beast to dupe earth dwellers, getting them to make an image of the Beast that received the deathblow and lived. It was able to animate the image of the Beast so that it talked, and then arrange that anyone not worshiping the Beast would be killed.  It forced all people, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to have a mark on the right hand or forehead. Without the mark of the name of the Beast or the number of its name, it was impossible to buy or sell anything.


18 Solve a riddle: Put your heads together and figure out the meaning of the number of the Beast. It's a human number: six hundred sixty-six.


The Dragon, the ancient serpent, the accuser of God’s people, the devil brings a second beast into to play to help carry out its war against Jesus’ disciples. The task of this beast from the earth is to promote the worship of the first beast, the anti-Christ. Later in John’s vision this beast from the earth will be called the False Prophet (Revelation 16:13,19:20, 20:10).

This second beast, subordinate to the first, has two horns like a lamb.  This is a masquerade attempt to look like Jesus the Lamb of God. Its dragon voice reveals the true story.  Have you ever wondered what the dragon’s voice sounds like, what it says?  It is the whisper of enticement, the bait on the hook, the appeal to ego.   The serpent in the Garden said eat and you will be like God. So, the voice of the dragon triggers egoism, individualism, and skepticism in your thoughts. What’s wrong with self-empowerment, and independence, and living according to your own values?  Be free. Is not your personal pleasure paramount? The voice whispers, do what you think is best, you can’t please everyone, so you have got to please yourself.


Having named the first beast the Roman Empire with its leader Emperor Domitian, we make a transition into understanding that the first beast represents civil power that is anti-Christ.  A system of government that ultimately rejects the rule of God and demands your allegiance is the form that the first beast takes throughout history. This beast from the earth represents a religion that supports the rule of civil government.  The framers of the Constitution wrote into law that there would be a free exercise of religion, which prevented a similar situation from developing in the United States that was present in England.   The King of England was also the leader of the Church of England. To rebel against the King was also to rebel against God. For the forming government of the founding fathers, there was to be no state religion.  

Historians tell us that Empire and Emperor worship were very much part of life during the time John wrote.  Temples were dedicated to Rome and its leaders, and priests conducted rituals in honor of the divinity ascribed to the Empire and its leaders. The Romans allowed the worship of any local deity if you also recognized the religion of Rome.  The emperor is divinely chosen and therefore demands obedience. This second beast’s objective is to capture the religious loyalties of the populace for the first beast (Ladd, p 185). You can worship any god you like, but you must also include worshiping civil authority.


As previously suggested it is best to understand the mortal wound to the first beast and its subsequent resurrection as a parody of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Remember it is Christ verse Anti-Christ, Lamb verse Beast. John writes in such a fashion that it seems that the sides are evenly matched. It’s the hype before the big showdown. It’s a suspense builder.  Who is going to win?  The sides are evenly matched.  If you stand back from the details and consider the whole, John has written a very informative and exciting story about Jesus and the results of His ongoing ministry.

Keeping with the symmetry between Good and Evil, the second beast matches up with the Holy Spirit. John has revealed the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, then the opposition, the Unholy Trinity, Dragon, Anti-Christ, and the Second Beast that John will call the False Prophet.


This second beast performs miracles.  John calls them magic tricks. Heed what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica.


2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (MSG)

The Anarchist's coming is all Satan's work. All his power and signs and miracles are fake, evil sleight of hand that plays to the gallery of those who hate the truth that could save them. And since they're so obsessed with evil, God rubs their noses in it—gives them what they want. Since they refuse to trust truth, they're banished to their chosen world of lies and illusions.


It was the prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven as a sign that the living God was Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob (1 Kings 18:38, 2 Kings 1:10). In Jewish tradition there is the expectation that Elijah would come again paving the way for the Messiah (Malachi 4:5).  Jesus told us that prophecy was fulfilled with John the Baptist.  So here again we have evil “afoot.”  The dots aren’t hard to connect.  In ancient times the prophet who called down fire from heaven, who is to come again to pave the way for the Messiah, the second beast is saying that’s me, I’m leading the way to your Messiah. There is no historical record of priests of the Roman Empire calling down literal fire, so again this may be a part of John's symmetry between good and evil, maybe like what happened to the 120 gathered in the upper room on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit manifested as tongues of fire.


As for talking statues, believe it, I read a tiny portion of one historical document that attributed Simon Magus whom we read about in Acts (Acts 8:9-24), as having the ability to make statues speak (Clementine Recognitions 3:47). “There was a widespread popular belief that god’s inhabited the statues and that through magical rituals they could be made to speak” (Rotz, p. 207). Have you ever seen Jeff Dunham make Achmed the Dead Terrorist speak?  Clever ventriloquism, false lighting, and speaking tubes can create the illusion of speaking statues.


The beast from the sea is a deceiver. John’s original readers would have to have dealt with the pressure to be involved in various public displays of loyalty to the Empire. Failure to do so brought down a heap of trouble.  When Trajan was Emperor failure to worship him was a capital offense (Mounce, p. 261). It would be so easy to give in to the pressure. To ride the fence.  Some folks believe in Christ but do the same thing today.  There are other things in their lives that they worship along with the One True God.  There are countless ways to compromise being a Christian in an anti-Christ culture.  Get rid of your idols, the things that absorb your money, your time, and your aspirations other than Kingdom pursuits. Don’t allow your testimony to be compromised that is the way the first Beast overcomes believers and kills their faith.


Rev 13:16-17 (MSG)

[The Beast from the Earth] forced all people, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to have a mark on the right hand or forehead. Without the mark of the name of the Beast or the number of its name, it was impossible to buy or sell anything.


If God’s people are sealed, John tells us so the God-rejectors are marked.  It’s either-or in the apocalypse, no middle ground, all in or all out, no fence to ride, you are on God’s side or the Dragon’s side. No one is exempt, everyone no matter your station in life, you are either on the winning side or the losing side. Without the Mark of the Beast, you are prohibited from buying or selling, which means there is tremendous economic pressure to submit. An economic boycott goes into effect for all who refuse the mark of the beast (Mounce, p. 263). “Buying and selling is the world’s game, and you can’t go far in it without selling your soul to the boss who runs it” (Eller, p. 133).


That brings us to 666. 

Rev 13:18 (MSG)

Solve a riddle: Put your heads together and figure out the meaning of the number of the Beast. It's a human number: six hundred sixty-six.


Forget about refusing the mark, you already have been branded.  Here in the United States if you don’t have a social security number you are stuck economically, unless of course, you’re a transgressor of borders. If you’ve got a social security number you’ve got the mark of the beast.  OK, maybe not, but that little speculation is almost as good as what the scholars have come up with. Bottom line, nobody today knows what John's original readers would have understood by 666. There is no consensus.


Consider this suggestion. The number 7 represents completion with perfection.  6 can represent incompletion, discontinuation, or failure.  The effort to achieve the plan was not a 7 it was a 6. The work of the Dragon, the Beast from the Sea, and the Beast of the Earth is destined not only to be a 6 but six hundred and sixty-six, indicating that it’s a total and complete failure.


666 is the brand of failure. Believers can find encouragement that, despite evil’s apparent power and triumph, the hardships being endured by the faithful are just a prelude to ultimate victory.


Life is tough, things go from rough, to intense, to catastrophic.  From our last lesson, Revelation 13:10 tells us no matter what happens in this life passionately and faithfully hold our trust in God. This is a call to endure the tough times, God rewards you with the strength to persevere.   


Hebrews 10:32-36 (MSG)

Those were the hard times! Kicked around in public, targets of every kind of abuse—some days it was you, other days your friends. If some friends went to prison, you stuck by them. If some enemies broke in and seized your goods, you let them go with a smile, knowing they couldn't touch your real treasure. Nothing they did bothered you, nothing set you back. So don't throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It's still a sure thing! But you need to stick it out, staying with God's plan so you'll be there for the promised completion.


Remember, to stick it out you are going to need the support of others.  Fellowship is essential to endure.  Lock into a group of like-minded believers and build your community.


Having identified the Beasts as civil and religious authorities you need the discernment that the Holy Spirit gives to distinguish between what is righteous and what is deception.  Pray for it and as you study the scripture you will develop a sense of direction the Holy Spirit will be your teacher and guide.


Isaiah 30:19-21 (MSG)

Cry for help and you'll find it's grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he'll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he'll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: "This is the right road. Walk down this road."


Friends, actualize that grace and more grace that will keep you on the right road.


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