11] Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12] And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13] He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14] And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. 15] He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16] He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads. 17] and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or 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 it is the number of a man” His number is 666. (NKJV)
Here is the second “beast” of the two. The word translated “beast” in both cases is “therion,” a wild beast, not a tame or domesticated one. This one has been called, “The False Prophet.” His role is to promote the worship of the first beast. He is described as having two horns like a lamb, a harmless and inoffensive creature, but he spoke like a dragon. There’s a lesson here for us. Our Lord warned against “false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,” Matthew 7:15. And John wrote, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world, 1 John 4:1. It’s no good having horns like a lamb if one speaks like a dragon.
But not only does this individual have words; he has mighty works, to the point that even he makes fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men, v. 13. His ultimate work is to make an image of the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived, an image that is able both to speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed, v. 15.
This probably seemed like an impossible thing in John’s day, but with the advent of electronics and “special effects,” perhaps this will not be as hard as it might appear. Regardless of how it’s accomplished, it will be a serious thing, to the point of death for refusal to bow down to the beast. A final test will be to receive a “mark” on the right hand or forehead, a mark that will be required in order to “buy or sell.” In other words, it will affect the basic necessities of life.
There’s something for us here. There’s a lot of talk about “miracles” in our day. Whole ministries are built around them. Perhaps these verses could warn us not to place an undue emphasis on “signs and wonders”.
There’s been some discussion about what this mark is. Some have suggested that it might be some kind of electronic chip imbedded under the skin, like a tracking chip in an animal. That might be, but I believe that it will be a visible symbol, readily apparent to all who look at the person. There will be no “secret” disciples during this time. I further believe that it will be in answer to those servants of God who have His mark in their forehead, Revelation 7:3; 9:4.
Perhaps there will be some who reason that they will receive the mark in order to be able to live and even seem to worship the beast, but “in their heart” they won’t be agreeing to these things. That dog won’t hunt, because the very act of receiving the mark itself will doom the person, cf. 14:11; 16:2. One of the things spoken of those who are saved in this time is that they have not received this mark, 15:2; 20:4. They “have not loved their life to the death.”
What about “the mark of the beast” or “666,” v, 18? There’s a lot of discussion about this, and even the world recognizes the number. I don’t know that it’s all that important at this time. When it does become important, it will be readily apparent as to its meaning. There will be no doubt. There will be no hiding from it.
The mark or the number may have no meaning to us today, but there is something that does have meaning, a meaning that will affect eternity. That is our relationship and reaction to the Word of God. The phrase, “the word of God,” appears five times in Revelation: 1:2, 9; 6:9; 19:13; 20:4. In Revelation 19:13, the phrase is given as the name of the Lord Jesus as He returns to this world. The other times, it occurs in connection with another phrase. In 1:2 and 9, it’s the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 6:9 records the cry of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. In 20:4, we read of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast.
The Word is to be the ultimate measure of everything we believe and do. It will not do to say that Dr. So-and-so is teaching this or that some preacher on TV preaches it. It’s not enough that some “Study Bible” has notes about it. Do not not get me wrong on this last; study Bibles can be very useful. I have several myself. Commentaries can be very useful, and the writings of men. I even hope my posts are helpful. But none of these in themselves are authoritative.
A Puritan whose name I don’t remember said this: “There are only two things I want to know: has God spoken, and what has He said?” It’s not, “What do men say that God has said,” though some today (falsely) claim to be His mouthpiece. What does God say? And the only place we can find that is in the Scriptures, that is, the Holy Bible, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.
But even the Scriptures have a purpose. Our Lord spoke to some very serious Bible scholars of His day, men who would have died defending what they had of the Bible. He said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life,” John 5:39, 40.
The purpose of Scripture is not to make us scholars, but saints. If we don’t know the One to whom the Scriptures point, then what we know of them, no matter how much, will only add to our condemnation. At the same time, we can’t truly know Him apart from the Scriptures. This may seem like a paradox, but it isn’t. We have to know Scripture, not just for the sake of that, but for the sake of knowing the one to whom they point. If our study of Scripture doesn’t ultimately take us to the Lord Jesus, we haven’t studied it correctly.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1.