Over the last five verses of Revelation 11, John records the sounding of the seventh and final trumpet and documents for us the heavenly response — John notes the declaration of these “loud voices” as to the coming finality of God’s plan… He continues by describing how the “twenty-four elders” fall on their faces and proceed to worship God… Lastly, John notices “the temple of God” being “opened” in heaven revealing the Ark of the Covenant.
While in chapter 15 John will return our attention back to this heavenly temple where the final set of God’s judgments will be poured out upon the earth, beginning with Revelation 12, he takes a pause in the action in order to introduce some of the characters central to this Tribulational Period. Last Sunday, we were introduced to five such characters: a woman (Israel), a dragon (Satan), a Child (Jesus), Michael, and the women’s offspring. Now, in chapter 13, we will see a beast rise out of the sea followed by another rising out of the land.
Again, with regards to this section, twice in Revelation 12 John refers to what he sees as being a “sign.” What he sees was not visible to anyone else. As such, what he records should be viewed as being illustrative and not to be taken literally. In fact, figurative language is used in order to describe for us the nature of the character he’s introducing.
Revelation 13:1-2, “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.”
Right from the jump, the vision John receives of this “beast” in Revelation 13 is almost identical to a vision received 500 years earlier and recorded in Daniel 7. While this morning I’m going to center our study on John’s vision, I would encourage you to listen to a study I taught this past summer on Daniel 7 that expounds upon the interesting parallels between the two. I’ve included a link at the bottom of C316.tv for easy reference.
As John is standing on the shore, he sees “a beast rise out of the sea.” In Revelation 11:7, we were briefly introduced to this character when John tells us that after the Two Witnesses had completed their 3½ year ministry, “the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.” Employing the Law of First Mention we can safely say that Revelation 13 intends to provide more information on this “beast.”
From the context established in this one verse, we know going into this chapter that this “beast” was a man of demonic origins who’d been given great power. In fact, the last line of verse 2 confirms it had actually been “the dragon” or Satan who “gave him his power, throne, and authority.” Not only is this man therefore distinct from Satan, but in describing him as a “beast” John wants us to know his character was that of a ferocious animal.
As John recounts what he saw, he tells us this “beast” rose up “out of the sea!” Regarding Biblical imagery, “the sea” was typically used to describe the nations of the world. Additionally, because the Hebrews were not a nautical people, the sea was often a literary way of describing a place of evil, chaos, and turmoil. Figuratively, John is telling us this man rose to power out of the nations in an atmosphere of great disorder and mayhem.
Back in Revelation 6:2, following the opening of the first seal judgment, John says, “I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” As one could imagine, after the Rapture of the Church, the world will be cast into utter chaos creating a perfect opportunity for a charismatic leader to come upon the world stage promising peace and stability.
The case can be made Revelation 13:1 recounts the same event from an entirely new perspective. Though the world will see this man as a conquering hero riding upon a white horse, from the vantage point of heaven, this man is nothing more than an evil beast!
While John uses the term “beast” in order to describe the brutal character of this man, this world leader is also known in the Bible with other titles the “Man of Sin,” “Son of Perdition,” the “Lawless One,” or simply as the “Antichrist.” This man will be a final world leader with the grand audacity to present himself to the world as literally the instead-of-christ.
For reference, the Prophet Daniel wrote more about this man than virtually anyone else in Scripture prophesying that the evil Antiochus Epiphanies was a foreshadowing of what the Antichrist will be. He calls him “the king of fierce countenance, the prince that shall come, the desolator, a despicable person, the willful king,” and, in Daniel 7, the “Little Horn.”
Regarding the Antichrist, John says he had “seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” In Revelation 17, we will be given a little more insight into what these specific things represent; and yet, for our purposes this morning, the big take away is that the Antichrist will rise to power through what is likely to be a ten-nation confederation of European countries in league with three additional regional, global superpowers represented by the “leopard, bear, and lion.”
Revelation 13:3, “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.”
In this verse, John describes a moment during the rise of the Antichrist where he ends up suffering some kind of mortal head-wound from an assassination attempt. While it’s difficult to say whether he actually died and was resurrected or somehow survived what should have been a death-blow, either way, the reaction solidifies his popularity and following.
In verse 14, John actually tells us this “deadly wound” came “by the sword.” Not only is this detail confirmed in Zechariah 11:17, but, as a result of the attack, the prophet says the “sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye” adding that from the blow “his arm shall completely wither, and his right eye shall be totally blinded.”
Revelation 13:4-6, “So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’ (During this time period there will be open Satanism. The Antichrist will be worshipped and all will know where his power is ultimately derived.) And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.”
In line with what we know from other passages, it appears a significant change in the Antichrist’s attitude and presentation shifts at the halfway point of this Tribulational Period. At first, this man is seen as a man of courage and Israel will see him as being their Messiah! With a strong hand, he leads the world community back from the chaos caused by the Rapture into a place of relative stability in spite of all the cataclysmic events happening on the earth. He brokers peace and rebuilds the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
And yet, at the 3½ year mark, Satan is cast out of heaven indicating his time was short. On account of this, as his instrument of wickedness, the Antichrist kills the Two Witnesses, commits the Abomination of Desolation by entering the Temple and declaring himself to be god, attempts to eradicate the Jews who end up fleeing into the wilderness, and in response to his attack being thwarted turns his ire to killing any and all Christians.
John says that for a period of “forty-two months” (3 ½ years or 1260 days) the Antichrist will “speak great things (make outlandish statements) and blasphemies (slander or reproachful speech).” John adds that he will “open his mouth in blasphemies against God, His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.” The Antichrist is openly hostile to Jesus!
Revelation 13:7-9, “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”
Back in Revelation 12:17, John told us “the dragon was so enraged with the woman” that “he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Apparently, the Antichrist is his vessel for war!
As to the timing of all of these things, according to Daniel 7:21-22, the Antichrist was only allowed to “make war against the saints until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” This 3½ year period of persecution will only end because of the return of Jesus.
While it’s safe to say this phrase “the saints” is a reference to any follower of Jesus (the word is used to describe believers in the Old Testament and Christians in the New), the extrapolation that this is a reference to the Church is simply not substantiated by the text.
Notice, in verse 9, John uses a similar refrain with one notable omission. He says, “If anyone has an ear, let him hear,” but, unlike chapters 2 and 3, he leaves out “what the Spirit says to the churches.” It seems a message for “the saints” was not applicable to the Church — which implies the Church was not on the earth during this time period.
Furthermore, in Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised that “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Sadly, this statement cannot be applicable to this period of time when hell is granted authority “to overcome” the saints.
In verse 10, John adds a quick amendment for this period of persecution… Revelation 13:10, “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
What “is the patience (the source of endurance) and faith of the saints (the ability to trust God)” of those who are left to endure this brutal period of human history? John says it was the fact “he who leads into captivity (the one who captures) shall go into captivity (won’t be able to escape)” and that “he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword.”
While there are all kinds of truths about God that enable a believer to endure and persevere through the most difficult seasons of persecution, the Law of Divine Retribution ranks high on the list! You see the fact that Jesus is righteous and that all wrongs will one day be righted should provide a measure of comfort for any believer in the moment of trial.
There is no escaping the reality these final 42-months of man’s reign on this earth will see the followers of Jesus face a slaughter, unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. And yet, John tells us their solace will be the knowledge that at the end of this time Jesus will return to earth wielding a sword of His own that no one will escape. As the Scriptures say in Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30, “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord!”
Revelation 13:11-13, “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.”
With regards to this second “beast” that John sees “coming up out of the earth,” all we really know about him is derived from this one section of Scripture. It’s interesting that this individual seems to be one of the few characters that play a significant role in the End Times that was completely concealed from the view of the Old Testament prophets.
For starters, our text is clear this man is separate from the Antichrist in that he rises up out of the earth, but similar in that he’s also described as being a “beast.” Apart from this, we know his primary function during the Great Tribulation will be to support the Antichrist. John says, in verse 12, “He exercises all the authority of the first beast.” He’s the sidekick!
With this in mind, it’s evident his primary function was to encourage and facilitate the “worship of the first beast.” To accomplish this, John says this man will possess the ability to “perform great signs” like causing “fire to come down from heaven in the sight of men.”
While we know Pharaoh’s magicians had the ability to perform supernatural acts as a counterfeit to Moses and Aaron, we have no examples in the Scriptures of false prophets being able to call down fire from heaven. In fact, this was something reserved only for the true men of God — specifically designed as the demonstration of God’s pleasure. Clearly, what this man is able to do intends to be a counterfeit to the power of the Two Witnesses.
As to the identity of this man, the greatest clue we have is found in Revelation 19:20. Following the Battle of Armageddon, John writes, “Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire.” There is no doubt this second “beast” is the “False Prophet.”
In Matthew 24:23-25 Jesus would caution those living in the Great Tribulation, “If anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
When John says he rose up “out of the earth” instead of the sea like the Antichrist, we’re given an interesting indication as to where he will ultimately derive his authority. While the Antichrist will rise from the nations and be a political leader, the False Prophet will arise out of the religious institutions of man illustrated by “the earth.” He will be a powerful religious leader who will support and promote the divine claims of the Antichrist.
To this point, the description of him having “two horns like a lamb” while “speaking like a dragon” indicates he will have a gentle demeanor and a soft delivery, but that his words will be shrewd and deeply deceptive. In many ways, this man’s pitch to the world will be similar to the way Satan spoke to Eve in Genesis 3, “Has God indeed said…”
It’s worth taking a quick moment to acknowledge where the religions of men ultimately lead… When you read commentaries on the topic the general consensus is that the dividing lines that make each world religion distinct continues to erode to the point a universal ideal can emerge. While that may be the mechanism that sets the stage for the False Prophet to consolidate his power and influence, Revelation 13 is clear the religions of men will lead, in the end, to the worship of a man who postures himself as a replacement christ to Jesus.
John continues… Revelation 13:14-15, “And he (the False Prophet) deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast (the ability to perform the supernatural intended to add weight and credibility to his message), telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He (the False Prophet) was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
While the False Prophet is able to “deceive those who dwell on the earth” through the various supernatural “signs he was granted to do,” John tells us his greatest deception will come in the formation of this “image.” In verse 14, he commands the world “to make an image to the beast” commemorating his healing. What they end up creating is an “image of the beast” or some type of object formed into the image and likeness of the Antichrist.
As crazy as this might seem, John says the False Prophet was then “granted power to give breath to the image of the beast (the image came alive), that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”
Not only does the False Prophet’s ability to call down fire from heaven make him unique and particularly deceptive, but causing an image of the Antichrist to come alive is also an outlier. In Psalms 115:4-8 we read, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell; they have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.”
Unique to this moment in human history, for the first time, an idol made by men into the image of a man is allowed to come alive further adding to the deceit of the False Prophet! I should also add that modern explanations of this fall short. John says the image was “given breath” meaning it could not have been AI or some other technological development.
Revelation 13:16-18, “He (the False Prophet) causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”
In order to understand what is commonly referred to as The Mark of the Beast, please keep in mind the context by which this idea is introduced. Verse 15 sets the stage by which the False Prophet has made the worship of the beast and his image mandatory. John tells us that anyone who refused “to worship the image of the beast” would be “killed.”
While it is true this mark will be required if you want to engage in the public marketplace and possess the ability to “buy or sell,” this economic benefit was purely a secondary byproduct of the main purpose behind the mark. You see taking the mark was first and foremost an act of worship and the demonstration of loyalty to the Antichrist.
The Mark of the Beast was a religious litmus test no one alive was able to avoid. In fact, in verse 16, John is clear the False Prophet will require everyone “both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave” to “receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.” Please don’t be deceived as to where this all lands… A tolerant world that embraces the lie will be intolerant towards anyone who decides to take a stand for the truth!
One thing you need to realize about this dynamic is that the ultimate consequence for refusing to take the mark will not be an economic exiling but your swift and immediate death by beheading! In Revelation 20:4, John says, “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.”
Conversely, you should take note that actually receiving the mark will result in an even more devastating consequence. In Revelation 14:9-11, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God… He shall 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 ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
Pertaining to what this “mark” actually is I think scholars have seriously overcomplicated the issue. Sure, our text makes evident there is an economic component, but it’s a serious leap to suggest the mark is some kind of microchip implanted under one’s skin. Again, the mark is a religious test that demonstrates your rejection of Jesus and allegiance to the Antichrist.
It’s critical you keep in mind John refers to this as being a “mark.” In the Greek, the word “mark” described a physical and permanent stamp or marking visible on a person’s skin. The entire idea of a mark was to indicate ownership. In a way, you were given a branding.
Aside from this, don’t miss the fact the False Prophet will require one of three things be marked “on a person’s right hand or forehead.” John mentions “the mark (which is likely an insignia or logo of some kind), the name of the beast (probably the actual name of the Antichrist), or the number of his name” — which he then says, “Is the number of a man: his number is 666.” You see the Mark of the Beast can actually be one of three things and is not limited to the number 666. What the number means exactly? I have no clue.
In order to help you understand what the Mark of the Beast is really all about, it may be beneficial if we take a step back and look at this chapter from the 10,000-foot perspective.
In the end, now that he’s been cast to earth and his time short, Satan deliberately sets out to establish his own religion in direct defiance of God. What makes this endeavor difficult is that Satan is really nothing more than an unoriginal copycat. He has no new ideas.
Broadly speaking, what John describes in Revelation 13 is Satan’s attempt at establishing his own Triune Godhead. Always remember, starting with the fall, Satan has craved the worship of mankind reserved only for the Father. It would appear, in patterning himself after God, he’s content to receive the worship of humanity through a human representative — the Antichrist who he sends in his image and likeness.
Think about it… In Revelation 12:3, Satan is described by John as “having seven heads and ten horns.” How interesting John then describes this beast as also having “seven heads and ten horns?” Furthermore, in the same way, that Jesus came in the “power and authority” of His father seeking to do nothing but His will, so the Antichrist exists only to do Satan’s bidding. It was the “dragon who gave him his power, throne, and great authority.”
Isn’t it also worth pointing out that, just like Jesus, the Antichrist will ultimately point to his resurrection from a mortal wound as being the evidence of his deity! Not only is this the reason “the world marveled and followed the beast,” but it became the central point of the False Prophet’s message and the justification for the creation of this unholy image.
Continuing the type… If the Antichrist is a replacement Jesus in this Satanic Triunity, the Devil knew he’d also need a counterfeit Holy Spirit. Is it a coincidence the False Prophet’s entire job was to testify, promote, and lead the world into the worship of the Antichrist? Just as the Holy Spirit, the False Prophet came not of his own authority, but he came in power, performing great signs and wonders, to “exercise all the authority of the beast.”
Furthermore, the False Prophet was able to demonstrate his power to the world in two ways identical to the Holy Spirit. First, he had the ability to “make fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” It’s interesting that all throughout Scripture the presence, pleasure, and power of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with fire coming down from heaven.
Second, in John 20, we’re told how the resurrected Jesus appeared to His disciple and “breathed on them, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” While it is the Holy Spirit that breathes life into dead men, the False Prophet will breathe life into this statue of a man. The whole act intended to deceive men into thinking real life was found in following the Antichrist.
With these things in mind, the entire idea of the converted receiving a “mark” from the False Prophet was again part of this Satanic copycat. Look again at Revelation 13:16… John says, in response to a decision to accept the beast and in turn worship the Dragon, it is the False Prophet (representing the Spirit) who “causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.”
This Greek word “on” is actually epi which is the same word we find Jesus using in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
There should be no surprise the Mark of the Beast would be used by the False Prophet as the ultimate sign of this false salvation when in 2 Corinthians 1, Ephesians 1, and Ephesians 4 the Apostle Paul tells the believer in Jesus that our eternal fate has been “sealed with the Holy Spirit.” As we’ve already seen, in the Great Tribulation, the 144,000 are sealed with the name of God being written on their foreheads. The mark is really nothing but a copycat.
In closing, there are two big ideas I want you to leave with this morning… Right now, you have three options when it comes to Jesus. You can follow Him. You can reject Him. Or you can wait to make a decision. And yet, during the Great Tribulation, the day will come when you will not have such a luxury. At some point, you will be forced to reject Jesus and take a mark or you will refuse a mark and find yourself accepted by Jesus when your life is taken.
The great irony is that while you may have three options before you right this very moment you have no idea what tomorrow holds. In James 4:13-14, we’re warned, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.’’
Secondly, my friend, you either follow Jesus Christ or you follow an Antichrist. You can base your life on the truth or center your life on the lie. You can accept the genuine thing or buy into a cheap imitation. You can have your fate sealed through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for life or you can be marked for eternal death because you chose to worship the image of a man and not his Creator. It’s really your decision!