The Two World Beasts
John Riddle, Cheshunt, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Before noticing the rise, activity, and ultimate destruction of the two beasts described in Revelation chapter 13, it is important to familiarize ourselves with the circumstances in which they appear on the world stage at the end time.
In the first place, it should be noted that they are the channels through which Satan, described as ’the dragon’,1 will implement his hatred against God’s people. In short, Revelation chapter 12 concludes with Satan’s persecution of Israel (the ‘great tribulation’), and Revelation chapter 13 reveals how this will be accomplished.
In the second place, ‘the dragon’ and the two beasts represent a fearful trinity of evil. One example of the harmonious operation of this ‘trinity’ is found in Revelation chapter 16 verse 13, ‘And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet’. In this connection, it should be noted that the second beast described in Revelation chapter 13 is called ‘the false prophet’.2 The ‘satanic trinity’ will counterfeit the divine ‘Trinity’. ‘The dragon’ will answer to the Father in giving ‘the beast’ his ‘power and his seat and great authority’, Rev. 13. 2. ‘The beast’ will answer to the Son: he will accomplish the purpose of ‘the dragon’. It will be through him that ‘the dragon’ achieves his objectives. Both ‘the dragon’ and ‘the beast’ will be worshipped, Rev. 13. 4. The ‘false prophet’ (the second ‘beast’ of the chapter) will answer to the Holy Spirit; it will be through his power, and under his direction, that ‘the beast’ and his image will be worshipped, Rev. 13. 12, 15. Significantly, the ‘false prophet’ will not be worshipped.
1) The first beast
His emergence and power are described in Revelation chapter 13 verses 1-10. The following should be noted:
The fact that John saw the ‘beast rise up out of the sea’, v. 1, strongly suggests that he will be a Gentile.3 The word ‘beast’ (meaning ‘wild animal’) is used, not because he will look like one, but because he will act like one in having a ferocious and devouring nature.
He is depicted as having ‘seven heads and ten horns’, v. 1. His dark master, the ‘great red dragon’, is described in the same way, Rev. 12. 3. The details are explained in Revelation chapter 17 verses 9-13, from which it is clear that the ‘seven heads’ represent a succession of kings, and the ‘ten horns’ represent contemporary kings. The ‘seven heads’ represent, in the first six cases, ‘historical kingdoms (represented by kings) who have been agents of Satan in waging bitter war against Israel, the people of God’, J. Allen, and, in the seventh case, the beast himself who will both consummate and exceed the wickedness and blasphemy of his predecessors. The ‘beast’ will evidently be assassinated but raised by satanic power, v. 3, to become the ‘eighth’, Rev. 17. 11. That is, while he commences his career a human ruler, he will become a superhuman ruler. The words, ‘which had the wound by a sword, and did live’, v. 14, mark the transition from human to superhuman.
The ‘ten horns’ indicate that ‘the beast’ will rule over a ten-part world-wide kingdom. The ‘beast’ has the features of ‘a leopard . . . a bear . . . a lion’, features of Greece, Medo-Persia, and Babylon, Dan. 7. 4-6, suggesting that he will have the genius and power of past world empires.
This is evidently global, ‘and all the world wondered after the beast . . . and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him’, vv. 3, 7, 8. With the exception of ‘the elect’,4 the entire world will be given to the worship of Satan, v. 4, and to emperor-worship, vv. 4, 8. It is worth saying that it is better to think of the ‘ten kings’ represented by the ‘ten horns’, Rev. 17. 12, as signifying a ten-part global kingdom rather than a ten-part United States of Europe or Revived Roman Empire. The anticipated ‘United States of Europe’ will evidently be one of the members of the world kingdom of ‘the beast’. Hence the expression, ‘the kings of the earth and of the whole world’, Rev. 16. 14, and the description of the united opposition to ‘the Lord, and . . . his anointed’ at the end-time, ‘the kings of the earth set themselves . . . against the Lord, and against his anointed’, Ps. 2. 2. John saw ‘the beast, and the kings of the earth . . . gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse’, Rev. 19. 19.
He will be guilty of the greatest blasphemy in human history, vv. 5-6, and of the most intense and merciless opposition ever experienced by God’s people, v. 7. His blasphemy is further described by Paul who calls ’that man of sin . . . the son of perdition’, and continues, ‘who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God’, 2 Thess. 2. 3-4. His ability to act in this way is only by divine permission, and only for ‘forty and two months’, v. 5. That is, from ‘the midst of the week’ (the final seven years of the ‘seventy weeks’ prophecy, Dan. 9. 24-27), to its end: for three and a half years.
2) The second beast
The emergence and power of the second beast, or ‘false prophet’, are described in Revelation chapter 13 verses 11-18. The following should be noted:
The fact that John saw him ‘coming up out of the earth’, v. 11, strongly suggests that he will be of Jewish origin. Like ‘the beast’, he is satanically inspired, ‘he spake as a dragon’, v. 11. Like ‘the beast’, he has world-wide power, v. 12. His very title also suggests Jewish origin. The fact that he places the image of the beast in the rebuilt temple at Jerusalem, vv. 14-15, suggests that he will be the final Jewish ruler, but, bearing in mind that he commands obedience to ‘the beast’, and enforces worship of ‘the beast’, it is apparent that he does not claim messiahship for himself. His whole objective is to glorify ‘the beast’, elsewhere called the ‘man of sin’.
The false prophet is ‘the king’ of Daniel chapter 11 verses 36-39, who will ‘neither . . . regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all’. The passage continues: ‘But in his estate (‘in his place’ RV) shall he honour the god of forces; and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour . . . thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory’. The ‘king’, alias ’the false prophet’, will honour ‘the god of forces’, or ‘god of fortresses’ RV, perhaps ‘god of munitions’. There can be no doubt that the ‘god of fortresses’ is ‘the beast’, of whom it is said, ‘Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?’ Rev. 13. 4. This may suggest that the beast will be a military man, whose superhuman cunning, driving force, and demonic influence will make him invincible - but only for a short time.
His sole object is to engage the minds and hearts of men and women with ‘the beast’, and to that end ‘he doeth great wonders . . . 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 . . . that they should make an image to the beast’, vv. 13-14. The Lord Jesus referred to the ‘image of the beast’, calling it ‘the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet’, Matt. 24. 15. It will stand in the very place where, as already noted, the beast himself will make his impious and blasphemous claims, 2 Thess. 2. 4.5
The ‘times of the Gentiles’, Luke 21. 24, commenced with an image in ‘the plain of Dura’, Dan. 3. 1, and will end with the most sophisticated image the world has ever seen. It is tempting to believe that the image of gold erected in Babylonia was the image of a man, and that it was an image of Nebuchadnezzar himself, but this is not actually stated, whereas there is no doubt about the image in the rebuilt temple at Jerusalem. It is significant that the image will not be erected in St. Peter’s at Rome, or in Canterbury Cathedral, or in Mecca or Medina, but in Jerusalem. The reason is clear: the ‘beast’ will know that God’s purposes centre on Jerusalem, and upon Israel, and he will therefore endeavour to frustrate the will of God. To that end, he will put down all religion, ‘all that is called God, or that is worshipped’.
The daily lives of men on earth at this time will be controlled by the introduction of a ‘mark’ applied to either their right hands or to their foreheads, v. 16.6 The fact that common transactions of everyday life are increasingly controlled by numbers on plastic cards, with technology already in place to confirm the identity of their owners, is the precursor of such a universal mark. To receive the mark will signify allegiance to the ‘beast’ and will carry exposure to divine judgement.7
But like ‘the beast’, the ‘false prophet’ will meet his doom at the return of the ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords’, Rev. 19. 16. ‘And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone’, Rev. 19. 20. After the millennium and the final rebellion of Satan, ‘the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever’, Rev. 20. 10.
- Rev. 12. 3, 9, 13, 17; 13. 2, 4.
- See also Rev. 19. 20; 20. 10.
- cf. Dan. 7. 1-2.
- See, for example, Rev. 14. 1-5.
- The image is called ‘the abomination of desolation’, or ‘the abomination which causeth desolation’, JND footnote, because of the resulting tribulation, Matt. 24. 15-21.
- It has been suggested by R. H. Mounce that ‘the mark is to be interpreted as the name of the Beast inscribed simply as its numerical equivalent’, cited by J. Allen.
- Rev. 14. 9, 11; 15. 2; 16. 2; 19. 20; 20. 4.
AUTHOR PROFILE: John Riddle is an elder in the assembly meeting at Mill Lane Chapel, Cheshunt, and serves the Lord in written and oral ministry throughout the UK where his gifts are much appreciated. He took early retirement from business as a pensions executive.