Beast 2: The Beast From The Land
The 2nd beast arises from the earth or land. He will in later chapters be referred to as the False Prophet. He is a religious figure. He is the prophet or spokesman for the Beast. He will point to the Beast, as the Holy Spirit points to Christ.
This brings up the issue of counterfeiting. Satan wants to be God. He wants to be worshipped. Remember he tried to get Jesus to worship him. (Matthew 4:9) He can never be God, though, so he counterfeits God’s being and work. Here he creates a counterfeit of the Holy Trinity. Instead of Father, Son and Spirit, there is Satan the dragon, the beast who reflects his image and the False Prophet who points continually to the beast as the Spirit continually points to Jesus.
He is full of deception. This is shown by his appearance. He looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon, like Satan.
He makes people worship the beast by performing miracles. (13) This reminds us of the pagan priests in Egypt who duplicated some of the miracles performed by Moses to demonstrate the power of God. (Exodus 7:22) The False Prophet counterfeits the miracles of Elijah in the Old Testament, calling down fire to defeat the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18).
In the course of this deception, he will convince people to make an image of the beast. (14) People will worship the image of the Beast. This again likely refers initially to the cult of emperor worship in the Roman Empire, where statutes of deified emperors were built and placed in prominent places and in temples for worship. It is similar to the image of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3.
The 2nd Beast, or False Prophet, give breath (or spirit) to the image and cause it to speak. (14-15) This may be a reference to the priests of the emperor temples who promoted emperor worship. The priests would tell people in the city of the oracles of the gods spoken through the statues and miracles they performed. In the future, this could be one through technology or simply demonic spirits. It will order the death of those who do not worship the Beast.
The False Prophet also caused all who worship the Beast to be marked on right hand or forehead. If one does not get the mark, he may be slain. (16)This is a counterfeit of the sealing of believers. I do not think this refers to a physical, visible mark. Rather, those who believe in Christ are protected for eternal life as they are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Non-believers, who worship the Beast are owned by him. They will persecute those who belong to Jesus, even to death.
Again, at times in Rome, if you did not sacrifice to the emperor, you could be barred from commerce and you could even be killed. In some countries today you can be ostracized and even killed by the government for professing Christ. It is the same in the areas controlled by Isis and in many countries where Islam is the main religion. And, someday, at the end of the age, it will be the case most everywhere.
The of the number of the Beast is 666, according to the English Standard Version. The New International Version says “for it is man’s number”. So, what does 666 mean? There are whole books and many articles devoted to this.
One approach is gematria. Gematria is the a type of numerology used by Assyrians and Babylonians and later adopted by the Jews in some writings. Basically, it assigns a numerical value to a letter, word or phrase. So, people who apply this to 666 work from the Hebrew to come up with the Hebrew words for “Nero Qasr” (Nero Caesar) That, by the way, was not Nero’s name. It was his first name and a title, but not his only title. His name was Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.
A variation of this approach in the USA is to calculate the letters in English. This is done normally to find that one’s political enemy is the Antichrist.
Verse 18 does say to “calculate” (ESV) or “count” (KJV) the number of the beast. But the number in Greek is not written with three 6’s. It is written 600, 60, 6. That is why the KJV translated it “six hundred threescore and six”.
There are a multitude of problems with this approach.
First, the book of Revelation was written in Greek, not Hebrew. It would not be apparent you needed to translate the words into Hebrew first. John does not tell us to do that in the text. Second, the original audience of the letter\book spoke Greek. They likely would not know Hebrew and be able to translate the number into Hebrew, then calculate the numbers of the letters and come up with the spelling for Nero Caesar. Third, gematria is not used anywhere else in Revelation. Instead, numbers are used as symbols for ideas. Fourth, American English was not invented when Revelation was written, so it is unlikely Jesus and John intended 666 to have meaning in that language.
Since we know numbers in Revelation are symbolic, we should look at it that way. Generally, the number 7 refers to God or things that are complete in him. You might could symbolize the Trinity as 777, the three persons of the Godhead. The number 6 falls short of 7. “666” would represent the attempt to be God but falling continually short. It is the number of man. The False Prophet is powerful, but will never be God, but always man.
What we know if that, at the end of the age, a powerful government, possibly led by a powerful figure, will persecute the church. It will have a false prophet who will lead people to worship the government or its leaders. He will set up an image, perform false miracles and teaching to lead many into a great deception. This deception is actually worship of Satan instead of God.