And I saw another beast rising out of the earth, and it had two horns like a lamb, and it spoke like a dragon. And it exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence. And it causes the earth and those dwelling in it that they shall worship the first beast, of whom its fatal wound had been healed. And it works great signs, that it should even cause fire to come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And it deceives those dwelling on the earth because of the signs that were given to it to perform before the beast, telling those dwelling on the earth to make an image to the beast, that has the wound of the sword and has lived.
In the book of Revelation, we find an unholy trinity. Each of these dragon-like beings are distinct from one another, and yet share the same throne and power. This is called the mystery of iniquity, as Paul expresses in 2 Thessalonians 2. We read of the pole to that – the mystery of godliness – in 1 Timothy 3:16. The dragon in chapter 12 is Satan. The dragon then gives his throne and authority to the first beast of chapter 13. Then, here in the latter part of 13, this second beast (identified as the false prophet in 16:13) another dragon like beast is displayed. He has the horns of a lamb, but the mouth of a dragon. Something about this character is reflective of the messiah, and yet is only filled with deception, accusation, and lies.
What is strange about this text is that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of expectation of an antichrist figure AND false prophet in any of the prophetic texts. This is something that has been hidden, but is now being revealed. Daniel 7:17 speaks of beasts from the earth, though the four beasts in Daniel 7:2-8 come out of the sea. This false prophet is the absolute wolf in sheep’s clothing, though it is true that Jesus wasn’t giving us a hint at only one false prophet. All of the false prophets throughout the ages seem to culminate in the deception of this one. The pattern that Moses has given in Deuteronomy 13 is the end time salvation from this deception. Of course, Jesus has also given us quite an explicit warning in Matthew 24 and parallels.
The miraculous signs that this man performs has been prophesied from long ago. Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22 speak of counterfeit miracles. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 claims that the ‘lawless one’ (whom I’ve heard argued is this false prophet instead of the beast) will perform miraculous works. This does cause us to wonder if the lawless one is distinct from the man of sin. Such consideration is beyond the scope of availability at this time. The miracle expressed here parodies 1 Kings 18:38 and 2 Kings 1:10. The point is abundantly clear: this man is claiming to be the Elijah. Malachi foretold of the coming of Elijah before the messiah (Mal 4:5). In this, the Jewish people will certainly be in confusion. This man holds the power of Elijah, and is even performing dubious signs, but then defies the Torah by erecting an image to worship.
In the days of Elijah, the principalities and powers could not perform the miracle of calling down fire from heaven. They were unable to mimic God. Something has taken place, though. Something drastic has changed. Now, at the end of the age, the demonic forces of darkness are endowed with the ability for these false miracles. In the time of Moses, the magicians were able to perform the same miracles to an extent. Yet, there was a further extent to which the magicians were utterly bankrupt of ability to imitate the LORD. Now all restraint has been cast off. Notice that this particular sign was not mentioned in Rev 11:4-6. While the two witnesses are quite distinctly being paralleled with Moses and Elijah, this particular miracle that emanated from the hands of Elijah is not mentioned in chapter 11.
Notice that Jesus warned of these signs, but our text only references the wicked to be deceived. These sorts of miracles were foretold by Jesus so that even the elect might be deceived – if that were even possible. However, given that the first beast will ‘overcome’ the saints, they who take this mark forfeit eternal life. Everything about this is counterfeit to oppose what God has claimed through all of Scripture, and what the Jewish people also maintain: God will rule over the nations through that small piece of land called Israel. Israel is to be the priestly nation to the nations, and this false prophet is coming before all men to ask the question, “Who is Lord?” The God who answers by fire is God, and this man is calling down fire. The point is to utterly deceive, but we cannot miss the Hebraic backdrop and context.
They who at this point are technically saints, but do not hold to the opinion that Israel is the apple of God’s eye, will without wavering be deceived into following this false prophet. Though the outward signs be false, and the words spoken be entirely demonic in origin, the sad truth is that many of my Christian brethren are all too anti-Semitic to resist. This man parodies the God of heaven, and yet is not a true prophet. He mocks and blasphemes with his false messiah, the beast out of the sea. They jeer against the LORD God Almighty, and they expect for you and I to follow them in that jeering. One might wonder how it is that such a taunt can be subtle enough to convince anyone that they are truly of God. The question could be pressed even today. How do you determine that anything is of God, even that which is technically doctrinally correct, but leads you away from Christ?
With these miracle we find a double edged sword. They who seek miracles in the Church will be staggered. They who deny miracles will be nonplused. How many will fall away because of this? How many will follow the beast simply because they look for signs and miracles? How many will be dumbstruck, because they don’t believe in signs and miracles, and therefore question everything that they had believed up to this point? Imagine not believing in signs, and then this guy comes on the scene performing them with the outward appearance of a lamb! The deception is real, and it is foolish to think that it won’t be a powerful deception.
There is great possibility that in this we find politics and religion marrying. That was to be the case with the messiah as well. Yet, there is a false marriage – like with Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab was king, and this beast is given throne and authority over all mankind. Jezebel brought forth the false religion of Baal, and this false prophet is establishing monuments unto Satan. This is the establishment of a false religion, just like the worship of the State was a religion in Rome. You worship the emperor, and you don’t simply ‘follow’ the emperor. The whole passage here displays the exact pattern of Roman emperor worship.
The ‘image’ recalls 2 Samuel 18:18, Ezekiel 8:3-5, Daniel 3:6, 9:27, 11:31, 39. This is a pattern in the Old Testament. The wicked build monuments unto themselves, and force everyone to worship them. It is almost as if these things are intrinsic to one another. The heart filled with pride will exalt itself, and refuse to be humbled. The heart filled with love for God will humble itself and refuse to be exalted. Throughout the book of Revelation this contrast is shown. The Lamb was slain, the beast suffers a wound as if slain, but was not slain. The Lamb thus is exalted, but the beast shall ultimately be thrown down to the pit.