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III. The Book of Revelation. K. The Second Beast: “11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. 12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15 And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev. 13:11-18). 1. We’ve already seen that the first beast refers to two entities in the book of Revelation – to Rome collectively and to Nero individually: “Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while” (Rev. 17:9-10). a. Rome is the city built on seven hills. (i) The beast rises from the sea: Rome is west of Palestine, and from their perspective, rises from the Mediterranean Sea. (ii) Rome had the power and authority represented by the ten horns and ten crowns (v. 1), was a fierce nation (v. 2), had world domination (v. 7), and persecuted the saints (v. 7). (iii) Rome also existed in John’s day: remember, the events described in the book were near, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bondservants, the things which must soon take place . . . Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (1:1, 3). b. Nero is the sixth of the Caesars of Rome. (i) The first five had fallen – Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius (Suetonius, Lives) – the sixth is – Nero – and the seventh, when he came, would remain a little while – Galba, who reigned for 6 months (Rev. 17:10). (ii) Nero had a beastly character: He killed those closest to him and many prominent citizens of Rome; he attacked slaves tied to stakes while dressed in a lion’s skin; he had a notorious reputation. (iii) He was blasphemous (13:5-6, 8): he had coins minted in which he resembled Apollo, as well as received worship from his subjects. (iv) His name in Hebrew adds up to 666.
(v) He exercised absolute sovereignty over his subjects (Rev. 13:16-17). (vi) He persecuted the saints for 42 months, after blaming them for the fire that burned Rome (vv. 5, 7). (vii) When he committed suicide, it seems as though Rome was dead (v. 3), but Rome miraculously recovered. 2. Who is the second beast? a. He is part of the devil’s antithetical trinity: the dragon, the beast from the sea, the beast from the earth. (i) We already know the dragon is Satan (Rev. 12:9). (ii) The first beast from the sea is Rome/Nero (13:1). (iii) The second beast parallels the first beast – he rises from the land as the first beast rises from the sea (3:11). (a) The land, in this case, is the land of Palestine. (b) Remember, the word “earth” in Greek can be translated ‘land” and often refers to the Promised Land in the book of Revelation. (iv) Both are directly connected to Satan: Satan gives his authority to the first beast (v. 4), and the second beast speaks like a dragon (v. 11). (v) Both are represented as beasts because they are the enemies of God’s people. In Daniel 7, the enemies of Israel are represented as ferocious animals. “Daniel said, ‘I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns” (vv. 2-7). (vi) The second beast comes after the first showing that he is subordinate to the first and lesser in power. This is also indicated by the fact that he has only two horns like a lamb, as opposed to the first beast’s ten. (vii) His authority is derived from the first beast, “He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence” (v. 12). (viii) His role is subordinate to the first beast, as his mission is to draw attention to the first, “And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed” (v. 12). (ix) He does this through deceit – he has the horns of a lamb but speaks as a dragon. “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life” (v. 14). (x) The second beast is contemporary with the first beast, and with John (Rev. 1:1, 3).
b. He is a political entity residing in Palestine. (i) Stuart Russell believed him to be the local Roman procurator: (a) He rises from the land, which shows he is a domestic and not a foreign power. (b) He has only two horns like a lamb, which shows his sphere of authority is smaller than that of the first beast. (c) He speaks as a dragon, which shows that he is crafty and deceitful. (d) He is clothed with delegated authority from the first beast, which shows he is an official representative of the beast. (e) He compels men to honor and worship the beast, something the local Roman authority would do. (f) He seems to have miraculous powers, which points to his function as the false prophet of the beast. (g) He rules with tyranny and cruelty, since he requires that all submit to the beast. (h) He removes the civil rights of those who refuse to submit to the beast, again, something the Roman procurator would do. (ii) Ken Gentry sees him as being something more of a cross between the political authority of Rome and the Jewish religious leaders. (a) He sees the land beast as more than a Roman procurator, though he has a connection with Rome. (1) He has strong religious associations. He appears as a lamb, which was the dominant animal used in worship. (2) John later describes him as the “false prophet” (Rev. 16:13; 19:20). False prophets only appear within the context of the covenant, showing that he has a religious role. (b) Gentry believes the second beast symbolizes “apostate Judaism as concentrated in its religious leadership in its high priestly aristocracy” (Navigating, 117). (1) Certainly, the Temple and the priesthood were very influential in governing Israel, along with Rome. (2) Richard Horsley writes, “The Temple and high priesthood were the central and dominating political-economic institutions of ancient Judea, their religious dimension inseparable from their political-economic function. The Torah served, in effect, as the constitution and law-code of the temple-state centered in Jerusalem. The Pharisees and other scribes/sages served a mediating political-economic-religious function in that Judean temple-state” (Galilee: History, Politics, People, 129). (3) Josephus indicates there were two institutions that controlled Israel: “the one belonging to the city itself, the other belonging to the temple; and those that could get them into their hands had the whole nation under their power, for without the command of them it was not possible to offer their sacrifices; and to think of leaving on those sacrifices is to every Jew plainly impossible” (Ant. 15:7:8). (iii) John is here backing up chronologically to explain the relationship between the dragon, the sea beast and the land beast. (a) In chapter 12, he showed Satan’s failure to destroy Christ when He was born. Moving over Christ’s whole life and ministry, he then spoke of His ascension. Then moving ahead to 70 AD, he spoke of the Christians’ flight to Pella.
(b) In the first part of chapter 13 (vv. 1-10), he shows the first evil beast, the Neronic persecution, the death of Nero and the Roman Civil Wars. Then moving on to vv. 11-18, he exposes the evil character of the land beast. (c) John is showing the moral connection between the dragon (Satan), the beast which rises from the sea (Rome) and the land beast (the spiritual leaders of Israel). (1) He has already shown us the connection between Satan and Israel: (A) “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:8-9). (B) “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: . . . ‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you” (Rev. 3:7, 9). (2) Later, he will represent this relationship as the harlot (Jerusalem) sitting on the beast (Rome, under the control of Satan; Rev. 17:3, 6). 3. What does the land beast do? a. “He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence” (13:12). (i) He is aligned with the first beast and derives his authority from him. (a) This doesn’t necessarily mean that he does everything the first beast does, but that he acts with the first beast’s authority in a given task – the destruction of the saints. (b) The dragon tried to destroy Christ (12:4) the woman (v. 13; faithful Israel) and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring (v. 17). (c) The beast, on the authority of the dragon, made war with the saints and overcame them (13:7). (d) The land beast does the same (v. 15). (ii) The land beast exercises his authority “in his presence,” which means “in front of” or “by his authority,” to destroy Christ’s people. (a) The Jewish priestly class was under Rome’s authority: (1) The highest Jewish court, the Sanhedrin, could not convene without the consent of the Roman authorities. According to Josephus, the Roman procurator Albinus informed the Jews that “it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a Sanhedrin without his consent” (Ant. 20:9:1). (2) The Roman authorities in Palestine involved themselves in appointing the Jewish high priests. There were high priest appointed by Herod the Great, Valerius Gratus, Herod of Chalcis, Vitellius, Tiberius Alexander, Agrippa I and II and others (Ant. 20:2-4, 213, 223). Under Herod’s rule of thirty-three years, no fewer than seven High Priests were appointed. In the brief reign of Agrippa I (37-44 A.D.), he deposed and installed high priests three times. (b) The Jewish priests used Roman authority in their attacks against Christians. (1) They not only tried to turn the Jewish people against them, they brought Christians before Gentile tribunals on charges of having broken Gentile law, and tried to get the Gentiles to bring them into the courts themselves.
(2) In Revelation 2:9, John tells us that the Jewish leaders were bringing false charges against Christians, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (3) Blasphemy can mean “to speak against someone in such a way as to harm or injure his or her reputation (occurring in relation to persons as well as to divine beings)—‘to revile, to defame, to blaspheme, reviling’” (Louw Nida). (4) Here we have the merging of two forces: the Roman Empire and the apostate Jewish religious leaders. b. He encourages false worship, “He makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed” (v. 12). (i) The Jewish religious leaders may have looked as though they wanted the Jewish people to worship God, but they were in fact leading them away from that worship to Rome. (ii) They turned the Jews away from Christ merely that they might be able to retain the power the Romans had given to them. “Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, ‘What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish” (John 11:47-50). (iii) Note that the relationship between the beast and the false prophet is tenuous, for the beast will later turn on the Harlot (another name for Israel) and destroy her. c. He exercises a prophetic role, “He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (vv. 13-15). (i) The signs represent the credentials of a prophet. (a) The land beast is able to call fire from heaven, imitating what Elijah did (1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 1:10-12), in the same way the beast required a mark on the forehead or hand as God did (Deu. 6:8). (b) He makes an image of the beast (Nero/Caesar) and makes it speak. This isn’t something a true prophet of the Lord did, but it represents the antithetical worship he is advocating (Emperor worship). (1) Dean Milman writes, “‘The image of the beast is clearly the statue of the emperor;’ and he adds: ‘The test by which the martyrs were tired was to adore the emperor, to offer incense before his statue, and to invoke the gods’” (Parousia, 468). (2) Dean Alford writes, “The Seer is now describing facts which history substantiates to us in their literal fulfillment. The image of Caesar was everywhere that which men were made to worship: it was before this that the Christian martyrs were brought to the test, and put to death if they refused the act of adoration. . . . If it be said, as an objection to this, that it is not an image
of the emperor, but of the beast itself, which is spoken of, the answer is very simple, - that as the Seer himself, in chap. xvii.11, does not hesitate to identify one of the ‘seven kings’; with the beast itself, so we may fairly assume that the image of the beast, for the time being, would be the image of the reigning emperor” (468). (3) Dean Howson writes, “The image of the emperor was at that time [under the Empire] the object of religious reverence: he was a deity on earth . . . and the worship paid to him was a real worship. It is a striking thought that in those times (setting aside effete [feeble, decadent] forms of religion) the only two genuine worships in the civilized world were the worship of a Tiberius or a Nero, on the one hand, and the worship of Christ on the other” (468). (c) We don’t know whether these signs were actually performed: they might be images pointing to the land beast’s activities: he would be a false prophet. (d) On the other hand, Jesus warned that this would happen in conjunction with the destruction of Jerusalem, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). (e) The land beast will later be called the “false prophet” (Rev. 19:20). (ii) The Jewish high priests actually exercised a prophetic role. (a) “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.’ Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:49-52). (b) But rather than using this office to lead God’s people to Christ, they actually used it to lead them to Rome. (1) “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King!’ So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified” (John 19:14-16). (2) See above John 11:47-50. d. Finally, he enforces submission to Rome so that no one can buy or sell without the required obedience to the beast/emperor/Nero, “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name” (vv. 16-17). (i) Again, the mark is not literal, as we saw with the mark the Lamb. (ii) Rather, it is the mark of ownership: if a man is not willing to submit to the emperor and worship him, then he may neither buy nor sell, but his own life is forfeit. (iii) So many Christians were put to death for their refusal to offer worship to Caesar.
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