Last week we saw the first beast arise out of the sea - the antichrist. Now we're seeing the second beast arising out of the earth - this is the guy that the book of Revelation will begin to call "the false prophet" (Rev 16:13; 19:20; 20:10).
What does it means that he comes up out of the earth? I believe it is in direct contrast to the antichrist's arising out of the sea. If the sea speaks of the antichrist being from the gentile nations, the earth would speak of the false prophet being a Jew. If it speaks of a supernatural, demonic origin, then it would seem that the false prophet is an ordinary human. But again, this may be very literal in the sense of satan bringing someone back from the dead to serve the antichrist
He has two horns like a lamb. What does this mean? In biblical description, the horn speaks of strength and authority. Imagine the days before man invented guns. Animals that horns, tusks, and teeth were the ones with the power.
But the description here is that they are like a lamb. A lamb's horns are just little stubby, non-threatening things. He will have very little power or authority on his own - it will all come from the antichrist, the first beast.
He also speaks like a dragon. We know that the dragon is satan. So what does the dragon speak like? I know of four places in Scripture where the devil is quoted.
1) To Eve, he spoke this way:
Gen. 3:1-5 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'" And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
He questioned the accuracy of the God's Word, and denied the truth of it, and promised that she could become a god by doing her own thing.
2) The devil said to God regarding the righteous man Job, "If you...
Job 1:11 "...put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face."
He questions the depth of the faith of the righteous and challenges God to test it.
3) In Isaiah, the Lord describes the fall of satan. He says that he was full of pride and envy.
Isa. 14:13-14 "But you said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'"
He sought to lift himself up, to be like God.
4) To Jesus, he said,
Matt. 4:3 ..."...command that these stones become bread."
Matt. 4:6 ..."...throw Yourself down..."
Matt. 4:9 ..."...fall down and worship me."
The devil speaks to tempt our flesh in weakness, to drive us to suicide, and to worship him.
The false prophet will speak like a dragon - he will deny the accuracy and truth of the Bible, he will accuse the righteous of having a shallow faith, he will seek to exalt himself, and will try to coerce the righteous to give in to temptation or even to kill themselves.
It appears that the false prophet is the antichrist's "right-hand man." This will be valuable, seeing as how the antichrist's right hand will be useless! (Zech. 11:17)
The antichrist's authority is the authority of the devil (Rev. 13:2-5). The false prophet will operate in this authority when he is in his presence.
He also seems to be instrumental in getting the world to view the antichrist as not just a powerful political leader, but as someone who should be worshiped religiously as well. It would appear that he does this, at least in part, by showcasing the antichrist's resurrection that we discussed earlier in chapter 13.
The false prophet will demonstrate great signs - even calling down fire out of the sky! Verse 14 tells us that signs can deceive. Don't be taken in by a miracle worker preaching an unbiblical message.
After the antichrist's resurrection, the false prophet commissions an image that looks like the beast - a statue, a carving, a mannequin, a wax mold, or something - to be built. But there is a feature he will give it that was not built in - breath, speech, and action! It seems to come to life. Does he make it to technically and mechanically come alive, or satanically and supernaturally come to life? I don't know. With so much speculation about the mark of the beast and the number of the beast, I'm very surprised there aren't more theories about the image of the beast.
Men will worship this image, and whoever doesn't, will be killed. This reminds us of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar got prideful and had a giant golden image made of himself. Everyone in all the land was commanded to worship the image. Whoever would not worship it would be thrown into the furnace. This is of course the famous Bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Now the same thing is going on here in Revelation 13 with the image of the antichrist. The people on the earth will be commanded to worship it or die. And the image itself will cause the death of those who refuse.
The false prophet also causes people to take the mark of the beast. Unlike the image of the beast, it seems that everyone's heard about the mark of the beast. And we've all heard the theories - that people will have a bar code tattooed on them, or that it is a microchip implanted under the skin. It is usually at this point that many so-called Bible teachers begin to whip people into a frenzy by telling them the fanciful story that everyone in Australia has already received a microchip under their skin. Or that everyone who lives in a certain city in England has already been bar-coded.
Maybe it will be a microchip, maybe a tattoo. The Greek word for mark is "KHAR-ag-mah." It denotes a stamp, an imprinted mark, a brand, or a carved sculpture. In other words, it could be one of any number of things. But I find that conjecture is often a waste of time. It makes your teaching tapes very dated and your commentaries obsolete after a few years. I like to stick with the Word of God, and in reality, the Bible tells us some specific things about the mark of the beast. As a matter of fact, the mark is mentioned seven times in Scripture. Because seven is the number of completeness, it would seem that this is all the information we need to have about it.
1) Everyone receives it, no matter what their station in life (13:16)
2) It is directly tied to the worship of the beast (14:9; 14:11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4)
3) It goes on the right hand or the forehead. (13:16; 14:9; 20:4)
4) It is called the mark of the beast (16:2; 19:20)
5) It is either the name of the antichrist or the number of his name. (13:17)
6) Without the mark, no one can buy or sell
7) Whoever receives the mark cannot be saved (14:9-11)
Everybody will receive the mark, regardless of their prosperity or position. Small or great, rich or poor, slave or free. They all get it. This is a world-wide program for every human being to participate in.
In five of the seven verses that mention the mark, it is directly tied to the worship of the beast. This is not going to be something that people get accidentally. They will receive the mark for worshipping the image of the beast.
During the days of the Roman Empire, all citizens were commanded to worship Caesar as supreme lord. When they did this, they would receive a certification that verified their pledge of loyalty and worship. The mark of the beast will be the same way.
The location of this mark will be either the right hand or the forehead. I believe that this is purposefully tied to people's worship of, and allegiance to, the antichrist. Remember that he is assassinated, but rises from the dead. The two lasting reminders of that attack are described in Zechariah,
Zech. 11:17 "...His arm will be totally withered, And his right eye will be blind."
I believe that the mark is placed on the right hand or the forehead as a statement of support, an oath of allegiance, to the antichrist.
It is called the mark of the beast. This is in direct contrast to the mark of God. You see, satan knows the Bible. And he's devoted most of his time and energy to making clever counterfeits, immoral imitations of what God does. The mark of the beast is no different. Back in Genesis 4, when Cain had sinned and killed his brother Abel, God cursed him.
Gen. 4:13-15 And Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, Thou hast driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Thy face I shall be hidden, and I shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and it will come about that whoever finds me will kill me." So the LORD said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, lest anyone finding him should slay him.
Without the mark, Cain would have been killed. We read in Ezekiel of something similar on a corporate level:
Ezek. 9:4-6 And the LORD said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst." But to the others He said in my hearing, "Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity, and do not spare. Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark...
Again, if you didn't have the mark, you were killed.
So the devil has taken this idea. But he's not very original or inventive, is he? Where should he put this mark? Well, in Ezekiel, God's mark was on their foreheads. In another instance, in the book of Exodus, God was giving the Israelites a directive to follow, and He said,
Exod. 13:7-9 "Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, 'It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.' And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.
What do you know? A sign on your hand and forehead! The devil steals that too. So he's stolen the idea of what the mark should do, and now he knows where to put it. But what should the mark be? The Lord said in Revelation 3,
Rev. 3:12 'He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.
And again in Revelation 22, we read:
Rev. 22:4 and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
Since God's mark is His name, then satan's mark should be his name, or at least the name of his head guy - the name of the beast. So this mark is completely counterfeited from the kingdom of God. Satan has no originality. In seeking to be like the Most High, he imitates as much as he can.
Now, people will have their choice of two marks: either the name of the antichrist, or the number of his name. This mark is going to be visible, and you get your choice of styles: his name, or his number.
What is his number?
Rev. 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.
His number is 666. But what does it mean to calculate it? The Greek word rendered "calculate" in English means, "to count with pebbles, to compute, calculate, reckon." It is to total it up. The one who has understanding is to calculate it.
Unfortunately, I don't seem to be someone with the understanding. Oh, I've heard some good theories. It may be that all we need to do is total up the guy's name. For example, President Reagan's number totalled 666 - "Ronald Wilson Reagan" Six letters, six letters, six letters.
Or, because Greek and Hebrew both have numeric values assigned to each letter, you just total up the letters in the guy's name, and voila! Your total is 666. Many believe that his name will actually do this in both languages.
Again, however this turns out, it will be obvious to everyone. Everyone will know that the number they are taking is 666. They will think it's cool, and probably more original than just having the mark of the guy's name.
So, there are lots of scary theories out there:
- the universal bar code has three sets of six bars, making 666 on everything you buy.
- the prefix of the world bank is 666.
- the www of the internet is 666 in computer language.
- If you take one plus two plus three plus four, etc, up to 6 squared, (which is 36), it totals 666.
None of those have anything to do with anything. The number 666 will be the total of the antichrist's name.
Now, the number 666 does show up one other time in the Bible. 1Kings 10 and 2Chronicles 9 both tell us,
2Chr. 9:13 Now the weight of gold which came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold,
What does that have to do with anything? There are three things that Solomon is most noted for: He had great wisdom, he introduced idolatry to Israel, and he built the temple. These three things the antichrist will also do.
The antichrist will unite everyone into a single, world community. Unless you are loyal to his leadership, you will not be allowed to participate. As a matter of fact, if you refuse the mark, you will be viewed as an intolerant troublemaker, and will be killed!
Now, again, people have believed that this is a microchip implanted in your body that you will do all your buying and selling with. But understand: it does not say that the mark is what you buy and sell with. It says,
Rev. 13:17 ...no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark...
So the mark will be their "check guarantee card," if you will.
Of course the Bible did foresee and prophesy a global, computerized economy. We'll see that crystal clearly in chapter 18. But the mark simply allows you to buy or sell, just like your drivers' license allows you to write a check.
When the day comes for people to make a choice whether to worship the beast and take the mark, they will be making an eternal decision. You see, chapter 14 declares,
Rev. 14:9-11 ..."If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
Maybe this morning, you've been putting off making a commitment to Jesus Christ. You figure that when the day comes, you'll reject the mark of the beast and then become a Christian. But if you won't live for Jesus Christ today, what makes you think you'll live for Him tomorrow? Today is the day of salvation.