Pseudo Messiah

The “beast from the earth” mimics the Lamb and presents a counterfeit of the true faithRevelation 13:11-18

Showman - Photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash
John saw a second “
beast ascending from the earth” whose purpose was to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth” into giving allegiance to the first “beast.” While the “beast from the sea” is characterized by political power, this second creature uses deception and economic control to cajole and coerce men to submit to the overlordship of the first “beast” - [Photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash].

In chapter 13, the “inhabitants of the earth” worship the “beast from the sea,” and by proxy, the “Dragon.” But it was the “beast from the earth,” the “false prophet,” who promotes this “worship” and gives it concrete expression by encouraging men to erect an “image” to the first “beast” - (Revelation 13:4-8).

The “beast from the sea” has “ten heads” and “seven horns,” and one of its “heads” appeared to have been “slain unto death.” However, its “death-stroke was healed.” The description, “as having been slain,” was applied previously to the “Lamb.” Likewise, the “beast from the sea” was wounded “and lived,” just as Jesus “died and lived” - (ezésen - Revelation 2:8, 5:6, 13:3-4).

The restoration of the beast’s wounded “head” mimics the death and resurrection of Jesus, and its restoration to life causes the “inhabitants of the earth” to render it homage. Thus, the “beast from the sea” is a counterfeit of the Lamb - (Revelation 13:3-6).

Likewise, the “beast from the earth” has “horns like a lamb.” It was not identical to the “Lamb,” but it also mimics him. And while the “Lamb” has “seven horns,” the second “false prophet” has “two horns.” It has the power to summon fire from heaven, making it the satanic counterpart to the “two witnesses” who consumed their opponents with “fire from their mouth.”

The “false prophet” employs religious deception to direct the “inhabitants of the earth” to erect an image to the first “beast.” But it uses economic coercion to punish anyone who resists his efforts with economic deprivation, especially the saints who, like the three Jewish exiles in Babylon, refuse to render homage to the beast’s “image” - (Daniel 3:13-14).

His attempts to deceive the saints are anticipated in the letters to the seven churches as Jesus warns the assemblies against “false apostles,” the “Nicolaitans,” the “prophetess Jezebel,” and the “teachings of Balaam.” Already, the “beast from the earth” was active among the churches. The economic attacks by the “false prophet” were also reflected in the economic deprivations suffered by the congregation in Smyrna - (Revelation 2:2-6, 2:14-15, 16:13, 19:20).

The stress in chapter 13 is on the use of religious deception by the “false prophet” to coax humanity to give allegiance to the first “beast.” However, when coercion becomes necessary, his tool of choice is economic sanctions.

The “number of the beast” and its “image” borrow language from the story of the great “golden image erected” by Nebuchadnezzar and his demand that all his subjects venerate the image “that I have erected.” That effort resulted in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego being cast into the “burning fiery furnace”:
  • (Daniel 3:1-7) – “Nebuchadnezzar made an image… the height thereof sixty cubits, its breadth six cubits… And the king ordered all peoples, races, and tongues to fall down and render homage to the image. Whoever did not render homage to it was slain.”
  • (Revelation 13:14-18) – “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, that there be given them a mark on their right hand or upon their forehead… Six hundred and sixty and six.”
This scriptural background is the source for the “number of the beast,” six hundred and sixty-six, and it links that “number” to idolatry. Thus, in Revelation, idolatrous religion and political power are inextricably linked.

The height of Nebuchadnezzar’s image was “sixty” cubits, and its width was “six cubits.” The Greek Septuagint version reads hexékonta and hex cubits, the same form of the second two numbers added to “six hundred” in Revelation, which divides the original number into three components based on the number ‘6’ (600 + 60 + 6). The number reflects the sexagesimal or 60-base numeral system of Ancient Babylon.

The “number” is figurative. In the book, the “mark of the beast” is contrasted with the “seal of God” that is placed on the foreheads of those who follow the “Lamb,” and which, likewise, is not literal. The “mark” or “number” is the satanic counterfeit to the “seal of God” and the “name of the Lamb” that is found on the foreheads of those who belong to him - (Revelation 7:1-3, 14:1-4).

Humanity is divided into two groups - those who “follow the Lamb,” and those who take the “mark of the beast” and give it their allegiance. Total allegiance is given to one or the other, and there is NO neutral ground, no third alternative.

Thus, the “beast from the earth” and his deceptive activities imitate the “Lamb” and his gospel efforts. The “false prophet” employs a counterfeit of the true faith to deceive men, causing them to render homage to the “Dragon” and the “beast from the sea.” The goal is to destroy the church, either through deception and apostasy, or more directly, through economic pressure and other forms of persecution (“It made war against the saints”).

The marginalized congregations of Asia would have recognized the arrogant pretensions and hubris of imperial Rome in this vision, especially the demand to venerate the emperor. Local magistrates pressured all citizens to participate in the imperial cult, which certainly would have included economic sanctions against anyone who refused to participate.

If there is a lesson for us today, it is that the “beast” will imitate the true faith to deceive God’s elect. Its counterfeit will look and feel all too familiar, and very likely, it will direct us to give the allegiance that belongs to Jesus ALONE to someone or something else. The best preventative medicine, is to give our allegiance to Jesus alone, and daily, to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow him “wherever he goes.”

Thus, the book calls this figure the “false prophet” and portrays it as a satanic counterfeit of the true “Lamb.” This may very well reflect Christ’s own warning that “false Christs” and “false prophets” will appear and deceive many prior to the coming of the “Son of Man on the clouds of heaven,” even the very “elect.”



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