What does Revelation 13:11-18 mean to us now?

 

Who are the beasts in your life?

Once in a sermon, Augustine asked his people if any of them was antichrist, as in opposing Christ, in character or unfaithfulness. The 1 John definition of antichrist, the only place in Scripture this term appears, simply means anyone who opposes Christ. It isn’t about an ominous opposing personality rising up and tricking us; rather, it is about our willingness to be tricked. God gives us a mind and incredible resources of His Spirit and Word; we have no excuse to be disloyal to our Lord. The call here is to heed the warning, not engage in vain speculation; rather, we are to make sure we are lined up to Him, loyal to our LORD! This means that as we lead our lives and run our churches, we have to seek Him and ask, are we being disloyal to our Lord? If so, guess what? The antichrist is not a political figure; it is you! We are the ones who are opposing Christ! This aspect is far more important that the speculations, because it all comes down to one thing, loyalty. Are you devoted to Christ or a slave to your will and to the manipulations of others? 

This passage could also mean that Christians may think that as long as they are not worshipping in a pagan temple, they are OK; but, to be loyal to evil or compromise God’s Word is worshipping something that is not of God! What we can do is trust Christ and be prepared, and that is John’s message to us. Stand firm in faith and do not be carried away with trivialities or intense persecution. 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. Why do these sings and wonders astonish people and, in turn, greatly deceive them? Do you believe people are personally responsible for allowing themselves to be deceived?
  1. What do you think this image is? What do you think the purpose is for the statue/image? How would you react to see this image come to life and speak? What would be the motivation for people to worship it?
  1. What do you see as the danger of the beast to us today, either personally or to the Church? What about relativism, diminishing values as Christians, replacing biblical teaching with faulty trends, and faulty logic and thinking?
  1. Why are there countless speculations on the mark and the number 666? Why would a pastor desire to preach by his personality and ignorance and not out of the Scriptures?
  1. What does it mean to you, as a Christian, to be watchful and loyal? Do you believe that when the beast does come there will be no mistaking of his identity? Then, how and why will Christians be tricked? What can we do to prevent ourselves from being deceived?

 © 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org

The Four Main Views of Revelation 13:11-18

 

The Preterist view: There are three prevailing theories in this camp about who or what this second beast is. First, it might be a representation of the emperor worship cult that was estranging Christians economically and socially as they were being forced to worship Caesar and disown Christ; it was an ultimate test of loyalty. Were they willing to lose everything for our Lord’s sake? Are you? The second theory is that this is about a religious persecutor either from within the Church or outside, because of the designation of the two horns, such as pagan religions influencing or persecuting the Church or false prophets from within the Church doing so. The third theory is that this beast represents local or geographical persecutions such as governors of local provinces because of the land/earth and under authority references, Others have said it could be corrupt internal religious leaders or Jews attacking the Church (Matt. 7:15; 23). The image of the beast is seen as paying honor and homage to Rome, as Jews did during their occupation.  From the Hebrew translation of Greek numerical values, 666 is seen as a cryptogram for Nero. The mark and buying and selling are seen as a boycott of Christian products and services meant to ruin them economically. Others see it as the corrupt Jewish officials forcing faithful Jews out of business. 

The Futurist view: They see this second beast not as strong a persecutor of the Church, coming in disguise as a faithful Christian (because of the two horns), and then tricking people into worshipping the beast. This may be a counterfeit Jewish messiah or a slick false preacher who is the “false prophet” mentioned in Rev. 16:13. Others see it as the corruption of the Church. Others see him as the antichrist. The image brings all kinds of speculations—from an idol coming to life to a robot. Most believe it is technology that is key and God can’t do anything until the technology is right and ready; this ignores His sovereignty and omnipotence! Some see this as the rebuilt Temple captivating people. The mark and buying and selling are seen as the world changing to a cashless society, ripe for corruption and control by the antichrist. The mark is seen as a computer chip implanted in people. This 666 is seen as a theme for apostasy in the Church or world; others see it as the antichrist and still others see it as a literal number tattooed on people’s foreheads. Others see it as a symbol of man’s defiance of God. Such theories may be possible (a big stretch at least), but usually are ridiculous and miss the main point of the passage. 

The Idealist view: They see this beast as a support to the first beast and dragon, unified in strategy and purpose. Most see it as false prophets and teachers in the church or a singular master false teacher. Another view is that it is false theology, paganism, and/or other forms of extreme corruption in the Church. Some see the Church switching its focus from serving God to serving governments and/or current trends and secular thinking. The image is seen as conforming to nationalism and being disloyal to Christ and/or actual signs and wonders meant to deceive people. The mark and buying and selling are seen as one’s life philosophy and choosing loyalty to God or to the world. Others see this as economic boycotts and pressures on the Church. The 666 is seen as a representation of impurity and corruption, or false religions. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as the Church going into apostasy, or those who blaspheme holiness and persecute the faithful. The first beast is the corruption of the Papacy and the second beast is the corruption of the priesthood. The second beast, as with the first, is seen as emphasizing the corrupt priests under the corrupt Catholic Papacy. Others focus on “Charlemagne” and the Holy Roman Empire around 800 AD and/or oppressive ecclesiastical power, or perhaps the emperors of Rome. Image is seen as false or alleged miracles, appearances of Mary and such being used to manipulate people down through the centuries to the corrupt practices of the Church. The 666 is seen by Irenaeus’s perspective as a representation of the last of Daniel’s Kingdoms and/or the “Lateinios,” the Latin reign and language of the Church, keeping God’s precepts from the common people as a control mechanism. The mark and buying and selling are seen as the corruption of worship practices and/or the Papal powers controlling the economics of Europe during the Middle Ages.

Six hundred and sixty-six!

What does 666 mean?  

It is a symbol typical of first century Jewish apocalyptic riddles usually known to the audience being written to; John’s readers knew who he was talking about. It perhaps referred to Nero, and thus was a warning about making loyalty-oaths to Caesar. It was not a secret code to the hearers, only to those outside of the Church such as Roman officials. 

This was also a common way to express or warn about godlessness or those opposing Christ (could be attributed to a specific person such as Nero, or to any person in opposition to right and God) while avoiding unnecessary reprisals. Some commentators have said this is “the trinity of evil”, referring to the number of the antichrist who seeks to combat God and His people. This is called in the Greek a “triangular number;” it is used as a parody or a word play in the first century, referring to someone or something else. 

It was also a cryptic code word that referred to Nero, using the Hebrew translation of the Greek numerical values. This type of code is called “gamatria” where each of the letters in the Greek or Hebrew has an equivalent numerical value, such as alpha stands for one. This was not secret but common Jewish thinking; Jesus, in the Greek (IhsouV), has a numerical correspondent to 888. Some early Christian thinkers, such as Irenaeus, have attributed this to Euanthas or Lateinos or Teitan; Martin Luther thought it might refer to a Pope Benedict, and to other various evil Popes. 

In addition, 666, as a number, is diametrically opposed to the perfection of the number seven which means fullness and completeness. Thus, the theory of the numerical value is that a future antichrist may have a name equal in numerical value to 666 when it is written in Greek. “Nero Caesar” is 666 in the Greek when transliterated from the Hebrew (Matt. 24:15, 36-51). 

There is no reason or call to seek to decode this; it is not about the world’s population hitting 6,666,666,666 that may have happened in Nov 2006, or some mathematicians’ theory or whatever the theory of the day is. The plain meaning, is far more important to us than what speculators have come up with… 

Which is? That we are to be watchful to those who oppose Christ and make sure we are not opposing Christ in thought, word, or deed, taking oaths, or making promises that counter Christ’s principals!

The Mark!

What does the Mark mean? 

It is simple, it means ownership and control; in this case it also refers to a forgery of the seal and love of God given to Christians (Ezek. 9:4-6; Rev. 7:2-8; 14:1). 

This “mark of the beast” is about who controls us, Satan or God. This beast forces people to bear the mark as a way to control and also as a counterfeit to the Holy Spirit that “marks” a true believer. This is also a pattern of the stranglehold that has been repeated throughout human history, such as the trade guilds that controlled who could buy or sell in the midst of the church at Thyatira (found in Revelation 2:18-29.) 

Also, it is the corruption as exhibited in John’s time by both Jewish and pagan priests, and especially the emperor cults. It is also represented in countries that are run with totalitarian tactics by corrupt officials and/or dictators. There are countless speculations on this, but it really denotes from the word meaning and the context, that it is a metaphor for ownership and control, but the means by which this will occur is unknown. 

All we can do is see how this has played out before and be ready for the future. Fear mongering over technologies and personalities are beside the point; neither Satan nor God need technology to make this happen, because it has happened before in grand scale without it. However, since we do have it… (Eph.1:13; Rev. 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20 and 20:4).

Exegetical look into Revelation 13:11-18

 

  • Another beast. As a word, it means a ravenous animal; as a symbol, an opposing power. In association with earth, it represents religious powers or people serving secular authorities. He is acting as a counterfeiter of good, turning it into evil; as a “propagandist” (dispensing deceptive misinformation) for evil, it is the first beast and Dragon—Satan. He seeks to bring glory to himself and that of evil, whereas in contrast, the Holy Spirit brings glory to Christ. This beast is also called the “False Prophet” in Rev. 16:13; 19:20 and 20:10.
  • Coming out of the earth. This may refer to a locality or regional persecution whereas the beast from the sea is more universal. Romans had local enforcers; various cults also had their representatives, such as the emperor cults and various personalities who waged their ways and evils upon the population (Dan. 7:3, 17; Acts 19:30-31). 
  • Two horns like a lamb/horned lamb. This is a parody and distortion of Christ, perhaps referring to the power of evil governments such as Persia in Daniel. This may mean he starts off as gentle, and then manipulates behind the scenes until he rises to power. Whatever the form may take in the future, this beast seeks to manipulate and deceive people with seemingly miraculous signs and wonders, counterfeiting the work and purpose of the Holy Spirit. This will be very evident prior to the return of Christ (Dan. 8:6; 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 5:6).
  • Spoke like a dragon. His true colors come out, such as Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15 concerning wolves in sheep’s clothing. When this happens, there should be no doubt who he is and what he is up to.
  • Exercised all the authority. This means under the authority of Satan or working on his behalf. It can be in the form of evil secular authority, corrupt religious figures, or the compromise and apostasy of the Church. Some see this as an evil trinity of Satan/dragon, the antichrist/beast and the false prophet mimicking God’s Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Great and miraculous signs. Wonderworkers were common in this time although most did not have real powers. Like today’s magicians, they tricked people. The danger to us today is relativism, as Christian values diminish and are replaced by faulty logic and thinking (Duet 13:1-3; Ex. 7:11; Matt. 24:24; 1 Cor. 10:20; 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev 19:20).
  • Fire to come is a parody of Elijah and of God’s marvels and powers, as well as how false prophets worked in the Old Testament. Satan seeks to deceive us while he discredits God (Ex. 7:11, 22; 8:7,18; 2 Kings 18: 24-39; Rev. 11:5).
  • Image… it could speak. It was a common magician trick used by priests to cause their idols to speak in this time, today we call it “ventriloquism.” Such deception was used for propaganda as well as evil personal gain (Deut. 13:1-11; 2 Thess. 2:4).
  • Refused to worship. The issue was perhaps not worship in the sense of religion, but rather loyalty pledges. This is a clear warning to early Christians to refrain from apostasy, as our loyalty is to Christ and thus, we should never compromise ourselves or His message. This beast can make the pronouncement of apostasy to those who refuse, such as what the faithful faced during the period of the Maccabees 175-134 BC (1 Macc. 1:50-51—Apocrypha; Dan. 3 and 6).
  • Forced everyone. Many Greek and Roman occupiers of Jerusalem forced the Jews to do this, thus, it was not an unexpected enterprise. Such a mark was, in the past, a tattoo, membership in a guild, code words, and/or an imperial stamp, etc. This is why early Americans reacted so negatively to the British Stamp Act of 1765 that was used to control, subvert, manipulate, and steal from the colonists. There was a tax on anything that had the king’s stamp on it. Many Greek people in this time had tattoos for the god and/or guilds to which they bore allegiance.
  • Right hand or on his forehead refers figuratively to a brand on a slave signifying to whom the person belonged. Not necessarily a literal tattoo or mark on the body, this was more a metaphor for allegiances, either to evil systems or to God. Romans who graduated from a class on emperor worship were given certificates that led to many privileges and opportunities (Is. 44:5; Rev. 3:12; 7:3; 14:1; 15:6; 17:5; 19:12; 22:4).
  • No one could buy or sell. Refers to commercial discrimination such as the trade guilds at that time, which had an economic boycott against people of faith. But, it will become more strict and cruel.

Revelation 13:11-18: What are the Contexts?

 

This passage is about the enforcement of imperial worship and/or totalitarian regimes in John’s time, an even more evil emperor yet to come, and about their forms of deception. (Remember, Revelation is also a letter to the Seven Churches facing current problems then as well as fulfillment of things yet to come.) This theme of allegiance continues today; whom will we serve and trust? Will it be good or evil? The chief ends of the beasts and Satan are to get people to worship them—or anything else besides the One True God. He will counterfeit the claims and ways of Christ by twisting them for evil purposes. 

This is more about our battle against evil, Satan, and those who follow who are duped or have the desire to be evil than it is about a singular antichrist personality that may or may not come into existence. There are countless speculations on the mark and the number 666. In word meaning, context, and as a metaphor, the mark denotes ownership and control. The 666 denotes a parody or cryptic metaphor for Nero or anyone opposing Christ. Most of what is going on in chapter 13 is an explanation about what is going on in his time period. The proverbial 666 has been made into incredible magnitude by movies and sensational pastors who preach by their personality and ignorance and not out of the Scriptures. This makes good movies but not good biblical interpretation. 

Basically, symbols in Revelation had specific meanings for a First Century Jew or Greek, like when we might say “it is raining cat and dogs.” These are metaphors not to be taken literally or lightly but should be taken as they meant then, not compared to a modern day newspaper. John was in a totalitarian, evil regime under Emperor Nero (as was Domitian) who was very much an antichrist (this means one who opposes Christ—not just one person but anyone who oppresses someone away from Him – 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7). This can also mean Nero and/or someone like a Hitler, a Mussolini, a Saddam Hussein, or someone who is yet to come). We are called, as Christians, to be watchful; however, it is foolish to seek an antichrist, predict one, or come up with some kind of fanatical theory such as a computer chip planted in us. There have been many theories; none of them have come true, and there is still an antichrist to come into fruition. When he does come, there will be no mistake of his identity.

Revelation 13:11-18

Introduction 

 The Second Beast 

The second beast appears as he comes out of the earth. He, too, sought to imitate the True Lamb by having two horns but he spoke with the voice of evil; the dragon and his true intentions are now exposed. He was given the authority of the first beast and demanded all people to worship him. The first beast’s mortal wound has been healed, and this second beast starts to mimic Christ by performing miracles, astonishing people, and in turn, greatly deceiving them.  He further exasperates believers by demanding a statue of the first beast to be made, equipping it to come to life and speak, and demanding people to worship it. Those who did not were condemned. 

This beast not only demands worship, he now marks those who follow him; he requires all people to receive his mark or his number on their hand or forehead. Thus, only those with a mark may engage in commerce, even just to buy food. The number is 666, the number of a man. John asks us to seek wisdom in our understanding of these things. 

This beast, Satan, and evil people hate Christ and seek to scandalize Truth and righteousness and proclaim evil as a replacement of the Way! This passage has to do with what contains and controls us; will it be the riches and desires we seek, or the Lord we wish to glorify? The devil will bestow to us gifts and opportunities that seem great, but the strings that are attached will tie us to him and away from Him. This beast also desires to control wealth and in turn restrain people; this is basic economics and politics. Those who weald the power and money will direct and manipulate the people. What is interesting is that people, by nature, seem to worship money and power. Thus, the task of the beast, whether he is a real person who rises up or a metaphor for what seeks to control us, this is about what does control, motivate, and inspire us. Is it seeking to glorify Christ or allowing others to motivate or manipulate our desires so we are devoted to things that are not righteous or pleasing to Him? 

What can you do to trust Christ and be prepared? How can you protect yourself from other’s faulty control, motivations, or manipulation? 

How can you inspire others to be loyal to our Lord?  

What can your church do to inspire its people to glorify Christ and not allow others to motivate or manipulate evil or misplaced desires, so we will be devoted to things that are righteous and pleasing to Him?

Revelation Theme and Purpose

Revelation is written to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, which is now modern Turkey (Rev. 1:4, 11). The principle purpose for the writing is the encouragement and chastisement for how they were running their churches (Rev. 2:1-3:22). John was fully convinced that Christ would triumph over the forces of Satan and his work in the world. He then exhorted them to be faithful and discerning between what is false and what is truth, and also warned them not to worship the Emperor or to comply with evil, apathy, or compromise. He restated the importance of discipleship and Christian formation so they (we) can be authentic Christians of excellence and distinction, bringing no disrepute to Christ or His Church.

Revelation is about the victory Christ brings, giving hope for those who are in Him and fear for those who do not know Him (Rev. 2:13; 19:20-21; 20:10-15).

As Christians, we can embrace Revelation rather than fearing it or the end times! God is the one who is in charge and in control. He has the big picture of the consummation of all humanity and history. He rules all of time and space, all events, and all actions; there is nothing in all of creation outside of His providence! Even in the darkest hours, God is in control. He will win and we who are in Him will be triumphant. Then, all of humanity will stand before the Throne, and all will be accountable; judgment for all who ever lived, rewards, condemnation, Heaven, and Hell await, and those who have oppressed His Church and children will be severely judged (Rev.1:12-16; 4:1-5:14)!

Revelation is just as much about how we are to live as it is about what is coming.

Our purpose is to understand that no matter what we have been through or will go through, God is in control and has our best interests in hand. Therefore, we can trust Him as we see His mighty hand throughout history and also in the future. We learn here on earth how we are to endure suffering and problems, not escape them, for there is no escape in a sin-infused world. Rather, it is how we discover and grow more from God’s work in us regardless of our situation that matters.

John knows what the church is going through, for he has personally experienced it. He has also experienced Christ firsthand and now has been receiving updated files from Christ in the form of seven visions. John’s visions bring hope as do all things in life when we are in Him. Our lives have significance and purpose; we are not alone for He is there with us. God is in command of all outcomes, the consummation, the fulfillment, the fruition, and the ultimate goal of His plan and purpose. Our call is to keep our churches in line with His precepts and in obedience (Rev. 4:1-5:14; 21:22-23; 22:5).

Revelation is also about the conflict between good and evil. It is both history and prophecy. It speaks to the first century churches of Asia Minor and it speaks to us today. For John’s readers, this book was also about what was going on in their day and in their churches. Knowing what is coming is important for our hope, but not vital to how we are to grow in Him or our faithfulness in staying firm to His truth.

Thus, John meets them head-on with the truth and with hope. He reassures them that Christ has not gone away, but He knows of their circumstances and has His plan for them. John gives them glimpses of the wonders of Heaven (Rev. 4-16). John is seeking to restore their confidence in Christ, and to persuade them to be encouraged and hold fast to their faith. He does not want them to fall prey to pagan practices and temptations or to false teachings, but, rather to focus firmly upon Christ so He is Lord over all fears and situations.

Christ has already secured the victory for life now and for eternity by His shed blood. Satan has been defeated and those who are evil and corrupt have been judged and sentenced (Rev. 5:9-10; 12:11; 19:11-20:10). We are victorious. We are made for eternity to be in Him, and our real hope and home is still to come (Rev. 7:15-17; 21:3-4).

The bulk of Revelation is dedicated to John’s seven visions in which Christ extols and rebukes the Church to get us to get our act together. John’s visions give us a depiction of things to come—a future history of the world through the Second Coming and into eternity. John also gives significant details in imageries. John not only gives us a glimpse of things to come, he also tells us how Satan operates and how to be on guard.

Revelation depicts how God is still in control even when Satan, the ultimate false prophet, the great dragon, and Beast is unleashed in his full power, causing insurmountable and suffering. Satan is seeking to lead the world astray now just as he will in his final act by seeking to not only blaspheme Christ, but trying to counterfeit Christ and provide us with a variety of misrepresentations. He seeks to attack God’s power and purpose and persecute those who are His (2 Cor. 11:14-15; Rev. 13; 17:1-9:10).Christ is the Divine Warrior who fights for us (Ex. 15:3; Isa. 59:16-18; 63:1-6; Eph. 1:13; Hab. 3:3-15; Zech. 9:13-15; 14:1-5; Dan. 7:1-8), and we can take hope because God is the One who is still seated on His throne and wins (Psalm 2:7; John 5:21-23; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 13: 1-10; 16:13; 17:14; 19:1-21).

At the same time, God has his remnant who remain faithful and true to Him, because fulfillment is in Christ, not in the false words and deeds of the false prophet (Rev. 12:11). The theme for the Christians in this age is to learn and to trust, to obey and remain faithful even against all odds, so we can remain spiritually pure and continue to grow. Satan seeks us to worship him; when he can’t, he seeks to disrupt us from who we are in Christ. Because Satan does not want us to be a good witness of Christ, he tries to sway us to only see our struggles, be seduced by the ways of the world, to conspire, fight, and gossip amongst ourselves, and to misunderstand or misuse our faith (Rev. 12:11; 14:4; 19:8; 21:9, 22-27).

Revelation is not a puzzle for which we must endeavor to find a code or secret meaning, nor is it a source book for our inclinations, theories, or conjectures.

Revelation is given so we can see God at work, His Wonder of Wonders, so we can pursue our faith with more diligence in trust and obedience, and to be prepared when He does return!