"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
Revelation 13 - Quick Links
After John's vision of the beast from the sea comes to a close, there is an intermission before John sees another vision of a different beast. In the break between the visions of the two beasts the reader is given a call to hear. Recall from Revelation 2, a call to hear is a call for understanding with spiritually attuned ears. Each of the seven churches that received a letter from the Lord included the call to hear:
Revelation 2:7 - "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."'
Revelation 2:11 - "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."'
Revelation 2:17 - "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it."'
Revelation 2:26-29 - And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations - 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels' - as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'
Revelation 3:5-6 - He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'
Revelation 3:12-13 - He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'
Revelation 3:21-22 - To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'"
Note that each call to hear is a message from the Holy Spirit to the churches. There is also a promise given along with each call to hear for the overcomers who are the saints. But the call to hear in our verse of discussion is different. It is not a call to the Church saints who are in Heaven - it is a call specifically to the Tribulation saints alive on Earth. As we will see in the next section, this last call to hear comes with a promise to those who hear and head what the Spirit says.
Revelation 13:10 - He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
As discussed in the last section, the call to hear comes with a promise to the Tribulation saints. The promise to the saints is the Lord's vengeance on their enemies. The following passage is a parallel promise to Israel for vengeance in the Tribulation, or "time of Jacob's trouble":
Jeremiah 30:7-9 - Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. 'For it shall come to pass in that day,' says the LORD of hosts, 'That I will break his yoke from your neck, and will burst your bonds; foreigners shall no more enslave them. But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.
Jeremiah 30:10-11 - 'Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,' says the LORD, 'Nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you,' says the LORD, 'to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished.'
Jeremiah 30:12-15 - "For thus says the LORD: 'Your affliction is incurable, your wound is severe. There is no one to plead your cause, that you may be bound up; you have no healing medicines. All your lovers have forgotten you; they do not seek you; for I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased. Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you.
Jeremiah 30:16-17 - 'Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall become plunder, and all who prey upon you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds,' says the LORD, 'Because they called you an outcast saying: "This is Zion; no one seeks her."'
Zechariah 13:8-9 shows that two-thirds of the Jews will perish in the Tribulation, and only a third survive as a remnant because God protects them in the wilderness, as discussed in Revelation 12:6. The Lord will avenge those who take the Jews captive. Likewise, the Lord will also avenge the Tribulation saints:
Revelation 6:9-11 - When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
Revelation 18:20 - "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!"
Revelation 19:2 - For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her."
Those who take the Jews and the Tribulation saints captive and kill them with the sword will have allegiance to the beast, and in retribution, all who worship the beast will suffer the full extent of God's wrath in eternal torment:
Revelation 14:9-12 - Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Facing trial or tribulation in any dispensation tests a believer's faith and leads to patience, which is perseverance or steadfastness:
Romans 5:3-4 - And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
James 1:2-4 - My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-8 - We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the next chapter, we will see that patience of the Tribulation saints will come through martyrdom:
Revelation 14:12-13 - Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."
The Lord does not want His saints to fight against the antichrist, just as He did not want Peter to fight against those who wanted to put Him to death:
Matthew 26:51-52 - And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said to him, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."
God will allow the antichrist to overcome His saints, as discussed in Revelation 13:7. Therefore, armed resistance against the antichrist is futile. Similarly, God commanded Judah to surrender to the king of Babylon instead of fleeing to Egypt because Babylon was also going to attack Egypt, so their flight to Egypt was futile. Since they disobeyed the Lord, Judah was overtaken by the Babylonians in Egypt:
Jeremiah 42:11-14 - Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid; do not be afraid of him,' says the LORD, 'for I am with you, to save you and deliver you from his hand. And I will show you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and cause you to return to your own land.' "But if you say, 'We will not dwell in this land,' disobeying the voice of the LORD your God, saying, 'No, but we will go to the land of Egypt where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor be hungry for bread, and there we will dwell'
Jeremiah 42:15-17 - Then hear now the word of the LORD, O remnant of Judah! Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'If you wholly set your faces to enter Egypt, and go to dwell there, then it shall be that the sword which you feared shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; the famine of which you were afraid shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die. So shall it be with all the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to dwell there. They shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. And none of them shall remain or escape from the disaster that I will bring upon them.'
Jeremiah 43:7-11 - So they went to the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD. And they went as far as Tahpanhes. Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, "Take large stones in your hand, and hide them in the sight of the men of Judah, in the clay in the brick courtyard which is at the entrance to Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes; and say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I will send and bring Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will set his throne above these stones that I have hidden. And he will spread his royal pavilion over them. When he comes, he shall strike the land of Egypt and deliver to death those appointed for death, and to captivity those appointed for captivity, and to the sword those appointed for the sword.
While there is no option to escape death for the Tribulation saints taken captive, God promises a blessing of rest and reward for their works and their patience (Revelation 14:12-13). As discussed in Revelation 11:3, dying a martyrs' death strengthens a believer's testimony and its impact on others as shown in the Lord's prophecy about martyrdom in the first century church:
Luke 21:12-19 - But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls.
The beast will overcome the Tribulation saints by taking their physical lives, but they will still have eternal life. As discussed in Revelation 12:11, the saints will overcome the beast through the blood of the Lamb and His love, and by the word of their testimony in the midst of persecution, even to the death like a sheep to the slaughter, just as Christ went to His death:
Revelation 12:11 - And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Romans 8:35-37 - Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
In the end, when the Lord returns as a lion to rule instead of a sacrificial lamb like He did the first time (Revelation 5:5-6, 10:3), He will make good on His promise to avenge His saints. The Lord will capture the beast who sought to capture the saints and kill those who worshiped the beast and fought for the beast with the sword of His mouth:
Revelation 19:19-21 - And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.
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.
Revelation 13:11 - Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.
After a brief intermission with a "call to hear" for the saints, John has a vision of another beast. This beast is a person and not a kingdom because he is called a "false prophet" in later chapters of Revelation. He also administers power over the global population later in this chapter, which shows that he is not a kingdom, but an individual. Moreover, the false prophet is cast into the lake of fire made for angels and people - not kingdoms (Revelation 16:13, Revelation 19:20, Revelation 20:10).
The second beast comes up out of the earth in contrast to the first beast who came out of the sea. Recall from Revelation 13:1, the sea can represent Gentile nations. As discussed in Revelation 7:3, when the sea represents Gentiles, the earth or the land can represent Israel. Therefore, if the sea shows that the first beast will come out of the Gentile nations, then the second beast who comes out of the earth might show that he is Jewish. As mentioned in Revelation 7:5-8, some believe the false prophet might be from the tribe of Dan due to this tribe's omission among 144,000 Jewish servants.
However, there is a seeming contradiction about the origin of the four beasts in Daniel's dream, with the beasts coming up from both the sea and the earth:
Daniel 7:2-3 - Daniel spoke, saying, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other."
Daniel 7:17-18 - 'Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.'
As discussed in Revelation 7:1, the four winds in the first passage above are the four spirits or four horses which God sends out to judge the world. History shows that these four spirits mete out God's judgment on Israel through four horns (Zechariah 1:19), which are the four kingdoms represented by the four beasts in Daniel's dream and the four metals on the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, as discussed in Revelation 12:3. This shows that the "sea" in the first passage represents the Gentile nations from which these kingdoms originated.
In the second passage, Daniel contrasts the earthly origin of the four beastly kingdoms against the heavenly origin of the kingdom that the Lord will set up on Earth and give to the saints. So there is no contradiction between the two passages above - the sea shows that the kingdoms come out of Gentile nations and the earth shows that the kingdoms are earthly and not heavenly.
With that in mind, John's vision in Revelation 13 differs from the beasts in Daniel 7:2-3 arising from the sea versus the earth in Daniel 7:17-18 and is best understood if the sea represents the Gentile nations and the earth represents Israel. In other words, the first beast rises from the Gentile nations and the second beast is probably Jewish.
The sea can also represent the bottomless pit, as discussed in Revelation 13:1. In addition, the following passages show that arising out of the earth can allude to coming out of the grave, either as a spirit or in a resurrection:
1 Samuel 28:13 - And the king said to her, "Do not be afraid. What did you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth."
Psalms 71:20 - You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
Isaiah 26:19 - Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
While there are no other passages to support the false prophet resurrecting from the dead like the first beast (Revelation 13:3), both beasts get thrown alive into the lake of fire without mention of a resurrection:
Revelation 19:20 - Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
This is interesting since all other humans who get thrown into the lake of fire are part of a "second resurrection" to second death. Note that the "first resurrection" is to eternal life, so the "second resurrection" is to eternal death:
Revelation 20:5-6 - But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
Revelation 20:10, 13-15 - The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Some suggest that since the two beasts get thrown into the lake of fire alive they are already in their eternal resurrected state, meaning they do not have mortal bodies but eternal bodies made for the second death in the lake of fire. This supports the notion that the false prophet also rises from the dead like the first beast, but instead of rising to a mortal body both beasts rise to immortal bodies like all those whose destiny is the lake of fire, but the two beasts arrive there a thousand years before everyone else.
Mystery surrounds the reason these two beasts go into the lake of fire a millennia before anyone else and speculations abound, but one reason that has merit might be in the number of beasts being two. As shown in the study: "Prophetic Patterns in Numbers," the number "two" in Scripture shows union, division, or witness. It makes sense that God would send two individuals to the lake of fire to serve as a witness to eternal punishment, similar to how the corpses of those who reject the Lord in the kingdom will serve as a witness to death during a time when death is rare (Isaiah 65:20):
Isaiah 66:23-24 - "And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the LORD. "And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."
Note that the second beast has two horns like a lamb. Similarly, John sees Christ as a lamb with seven horns in Revelation 5:6, where we saw that horns can represent strength, authority, or dominion as a king. In the next section we will see that the second beast operates under authority of the first beast, so the number two might signify the union between the two beasts. The two horns may also speak of the second beast's witness of the first beast, since the second beast acts as the first beast's prophet (Revelation 19:20) and compels the world to worship the first beast (Revelation 13:12).
As already mentioned, the second beast is later called a false prophet and in our passage of discussion John likens him to a lamb. The Lord warns against such prophets:
Matthew 7:15 - "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."
The second beast is certainly not a lamb inwardly, as he speaks like a dragon, which means the dragon will give this false prophet a mouth to speak the way he gave a mouth to the first beast in Revelation 13:5. Similarly, God gave His prophets a mouth to speak:
Jeremiah 15:19 - Therefore thus says the LORD: "If you return, then I will bring you back; you shall stand before Me; if you take out the precious from the vile, you shall be as My mouth. Let them return to you, but you must not return to them."
Acts 3:18-21 - But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.
This shows that God's prophets spoke His Word, but the false prophet will speak the words Satan gives him. Satan tries to counterfeit God (Isaiah 14), and later we will see that Satan will try to counterfeit God in every way he can, even mimicking the Godhead - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Revelation 13:12 - 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.
As discussed in the last section, the horns on the second beast show authority. Having two horns may signify the union between the two beasts, and the witness or testimony the second beast bears of the first beast. This fits with John's description of the second beast working in the presence or under the influence of power and authority of the first beast. In other words, the second beast is dependent upon the first beast for his power, and the first beast controls the authority and power of the second beast who directs all worship through the second beast back to himself. Since John notes the deadly wound of the first beast, it is likely that the second beast's testimony of the first beast's resurrection serves to compel the world to worship the first beast.
Again, the second beast does not work in his own authority, but under authority of the first beast, and as we saw in the last section, the second beast does not speak under his own authority, but under the dragon's authority. This is a counterfeit of the Godhead, where the Holy Spirit does not work under His own authority, but He speaks under and operates under authority of the Father and the Son:
John 16:13-15 - However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
Therefore, the false prophet is a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit, the first beast is a counterfeit of Christ, and the dragon is a counterfeit of the Father - all of which many scholars call the evil or infernal trinity.
Revelation 13:13 - He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.
In the last section, we saw that the false prophet operates in the power and authority of the first beast, who gets his power from Satan. The false prophet uses this power to do great signs, including calling down fire from Heaven. God sent fire down from Heaven on several occasions:
But Satan also has the power to send fire down from Heaven, and when he used this power on Job's household, it was mistaken as fire from God:
Job 1:9-12 - So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
Job 1:13-16 - Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house; and a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away - indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!"
As we will see in the next section, Satan gives his power to the false prophet to do great signs such as calling fire down from Heaven to deceive others. People tend to associate signs and wonders with the power of God, but God calls the signs and wonders of Satan a lie:
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 - The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
As discussed in Revelation 11:3-6, the two witnesses perform miracles and call down plagues on the earth like Moses and Aaron called down plagues on Egypt. Perhaps, the false prophet performs signs and wonders to counterfeit the miracles and plagues of the two witnesses to discredit them the way Pharaoh's magicians tried to discredit Moses. And as Pharaoh continued to have a hardened heart through the counterfeit plagues, most of the world will become hardened against God and follow the beast instead.
The battle of the signs and wonders between God's two witnesses and the two beasts will test the hearts of the Jews too. Jews generally seek a sign before they will believe:
Mark 8:11-12 - Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation."
John 4:48 - Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe."
God uses signs to test the Jews to see if they will follow the Lord or follow the signs:
Deuteronomy 13:1-4 - "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods' - which you have not known - 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him."
However, many Jews will choose to reject the signs and wonders from the Lord because they don't really have a heart for God and instead follow after the lying signs and their own hearts like the children of Israel in Moses' day:
Acts 7:36-42 - He brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years. "This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.' "This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, 'Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven...."
While Jews look for signs and God gives them signs to test them, Christians do not need signs:
1 Corinthians 1:22 - For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom....
2 Corinthians 5:7 - For we walk by faith, not by sight.
In fact, signs and wonders are often a stumbling block for Christians. Consider the vision of Fatima. Nearly 70,000 people witnessed a strange phenomenon that made the sun look like a strange fireball coming down to Earth. This sign served to authenticate in the minds of many the visions of three children who claimed to see Jesus' mother Mary:
"While many people believed the children had actually seen the Virgin, many others discounted the children's story, subjecting them to much derision and ridicule. When it became known the Lady would visit the children for the last time on October 13, 1917, and had promised a sign that would convince the world she had appeared, many pilgrims made plans to attend.
Though the region had been subjected to three days of torrential downpour, nearly 70,000 people journeyed through the heavy rain and mud to the place of the previous apparitions to witness the predicted miracle. Many were scornful, unbelievers whose sole intent was to discredit the children's stories.
Suddenly the "clouds separated... and the sun appeared between them in the clear blue, like a disk of white fire." The people could look at the sun without blinking and while they gazed upward, the huge ball began to "dance." The huge fireball whirled rapidly with dizzy and sickening speed, flinging out all sorts of brilliant colors that reflected on the faces of the crowds. The fiery ball continued to gyrate in this manner three times, then seemed to tremble and shudder, and plunge in a mighty zigzag course toward the earth. The crowd was terrified, fearing this was the end of the world.
However, the sun reversed course and, retracing its zigzagging course, returned to its normal place in the heavens. All of this transpired in approximately ten minutes. After realizing they were not doomed, the crowd began ecstatically laughing, crying, shouting and weeping. Many discovered their previously drenched clothing to be perfectly dry."
After this "miracle in the sun," more people turned to idolatrous practices of praying the rosary and veneration of Mary instead of turning toward Christ. Clearly this sign and wonder was Satan's deception. If a sign seen by 70,000 can have such a large impact, we can only imagine how much more people will follow the beast when everyone in the world witnesses similar signs and wonders attributed to the beast.
Revelation 13:14 - And he deceives those who dwell on the earth - by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast...
The second beast is appropriately called the false prophet (Revelation 16:13, Revelation 19:20, Revelation 20:10) because he will deceive people with signs and wonders in the sight or presence of the first beast, which means he will work under the influencing power and authority of the first beast. The signs and wonders performed by the false prophet include calling fire down from Heaven, which is a sign typically attributed to God, as discussed in the last section.
While false religion is often filled with superstition and perpetuated through demonic signs and wonders like voodoo or witchcraft, the signs and wonders in the Tribulation, including those performed by the false prophet, will be so great that even believers will have a hard time discounting them:
People open themselves up to deception when they rely on their experiences in life instead of the truth in God's Word. Since God's Word shows us that the enemy can use signs and wonders as a tool for deception, we must "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). Those who reject God's Word will become subject to deception and worship false gods and practice lawlessness in willful ignorance:
Matthew 7:21-23 - "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"
Signs and wonders can become a stumbling block, even for believers, as shown in the passage below:
Acts 8:9-12 - But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God." And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.
Acts 8:13-17 - Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:18-24 - And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit." But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." Then Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me."
God is always interested in the intent of the heart. Allowing signs and wonders that might even deceive believers serves as a test of the heart, as discussed in the last section. Saints of all dispensations must rely on God's Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit instead of following their experiences and their own hearts to pass the test, even if the signs and wonders are difficult to discount with the physical senses.
While Satan has power to generate signs and wonders through his earthly agents, he still has his limits. In the plagues on Egypt, Pharaoh's magicians turned rods into snakes, turned the water to blood, and caused a plague of frogs like God, but they were unable to copy the plagues after the frogs, and even conceded that God was more powerful than they were:
Exodus 8:18-19 - Now the magicians so worked with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not. So there were lice on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had said.
Incidentally, the last counterfeit plague performed by the Egyptian magicians and the last lying sign and wonder of Satan through the two beasts both involve frogs and are the only two places frogs are found in Scripture:
Revelation 16:13-14 - And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Some believe that each plague against Egypt served to defeat and judge their gods and show that the God of Israel was the one true God (source). The Egyptian goddess Heqet had the head of a frog and was the fertility goddess of birth and resurrection (source):
"In the Egyptian pantheon the goddess Heqet had the form of a woman with a frog's head. From her nostrils, it was believed, came the breath of life that animated the bodies of those created by her husband, the great god Khnum, from the dust of the earth. Therefore frogs were not to be killed."
As we will see in Revelation 13:15, the false prophet is able to give "breath" to animate the image of the beast similar to how the goddess Heqet supposedly animated bodies with her breath. But in the end, the last of the magician's counterfeit plague of frogs in Egypt show that Satan's power is limited and these deceptive signs are no match for the power of God Almighty!
Revelation 13:14 - ...telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
As discussed in the last section, the false prophet will deceive those who dwell on the earth by great signs and wonders, and cause them to worship the beast after his resurrection from the dead. In apparent homage to the resurrected beast, the false prophet directs the world to make an image to the beast. The image made to the beast is probably the "abomination" that causes desolation which will stand in the temple:
Matthew 24:15 - 'Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand)..."
The word "abomination" refers to a detestable or accursed thing, usually ascribed to idols in Scripture. As discussed in Revelation 13:4, the "abomination of desolation" was that the ruler of the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus Epiphanes, defiled the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. He also set up a statue of a Greek god in the place of the Most Holy.
The "abomination of desolation" of the temple has not happened again since Christ reiterated Daniel's prophecy in His "Olivet Discourse." Many believe the beast will set up the idol made in his image in the temple just as Antiochus Epiphanes set up an idol when he desecrated the temple in the second century B.C.
Revelation 13:15 - 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.
John noted the beast's resurrection in the last section, and in this section the false prophet appears to give life to the image of the beast who died and rose again. The common thread of resurrection and deceptive signs and wonders associated with frogs may relate to the plagues in the Exodus and the Egyptian frog goddess of birth and resurrection, Heget, as discussed in Revelation 13:14. The false prophet directs those who worship the resurrected beast to make an image to the beast, and like the Egyptian frog goddess the false prophet is able to give "breath" to the image to make it become lifelike. Images or idols themselves do not have the power to speak:
Psalms 115:4-8 - Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell; they have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.
Psalms 135:15-18 - The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.
Habakkuk 2:18 - "What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it, the molded image, a teacher of lies, that the maker of its mold should trust in it, to make mute idols? Woe to him who says to wood, 'Awake!' To silent stone, 'Arise! It shall teach!' Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet in it there is no breath at all.
Nevertheless, the false prophet is able to make the image of the beast speak. Several scholars suggest the lifelike qualities of the image of the beast are merely impressive technology that cause people to believe the image is alive. While it is reasonable to assume technology will help the false prophet spread his deception around the world, the problem with the image appearing alive through technology is that the huge advances of technology are becoming so mainstream that it would take something extraordinary to deceive the masses into believing the image is alive. But it is the false prophet who makes the image speak, so he is either a prodigy in technology, or he recruits exceptional gurus to build the image, or he uses demonic power to make the image become lifelike.
On that note, consider that the Greek word "pneuma" translated "breath" can mean breath, wind, or spirit. Since "breath" has the power to make an inanimate object lifelike, it is either the breath of life that makes the image come alive, or it is a demonic spirit that animates the image making it appear lifelike. Either option would rule out the advanced technology theory.
The only place in Scripture we see an inanimate object come to life is when the rods of Moses and the Egyptian magicians became serpents:
Exodus 7:9-12 - "When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, 'Show a miracle for yourselves,' then you shall say to Aaron, 'Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent.' " So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the LORD commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.
It appears that the rods became living breathing serpents, but only God has the power to give life (Job 12:9-10, Acts 17:24-25). While God has resurrected dead people through men, as discussed in Revelation 13:3, there are no other examples of anyone but God creating new life. This suggests the Egyptian magicians did not create new life out of rods when they became serpents, rather, it is likely they directed demons to animate the rods. Moreover, the life likeness of the image of the beast is probably animation by a demonic spirit and not the "breath of life" making it a living being, since only God has the power to create life.
The following passages show that people worshipped demonic spirits through inanimate idols:
Psalms 106:35-40 - But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; they served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they were defiled by their own works, and played the harlot by their own deeds. Therefore the wrath of the LORD was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance.
2 Chronicles 11:14-15 - For the Levites left their common-lands and their possessions and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them from serving as priests to the LORD. Then he appointed for himself priests for the high places, for the demons, and the calf idols which he had made.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21 - Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons.
People will worship demons through idols in the Tribulation too, as shown in the passage below. Like other idols in Scripture, these idols cannot see, hear, or walk, but muteness is curiously absent from the list, which may allude to the image of the beast which can speak:
Revelation 9:20 - But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.
The image of the beast also has power to kill those who don't worship it. Similarly, Nebuchadnezzar threw Daniel's friends into the fiery furnace for not worshipping the image the king erected:
Daniel 3:12-15 - "There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up." Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?"
Daniel 3:16-20 - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up." Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
It was the king who tried to kill the three Jewish men for not bowing down to the statue, but the image of the beast will have power to kill those who refuse to worship it - a real life terminator! We don't know how the image will kill people, but since it is able to speak, it is reasonable to conclude that the image will probably command others to execute those who refuse to bow down and worship.
The world makes the image to the beast and for the beast and the world worships both the beast, as we saw in Revelation 13:4, and the image of the beast, as shown here in verse 15. The following passage shows how the beast is connected to idolatry:
Zechariah 11:16-17 - For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces. "Woe to the worthless shepherd, who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye; his arm shall completely wither, and his right eye shall be totally blinded."
As discussed in Revelation 13:3, the beast is the "worthless shepherd." The word translated "worthless" is usually translated "idols," but it can also describe something with no value. While the beast is certainly worthless as a leader, describing him as the "idol shepherd" also shows how the world will worship him through idolatry. This passage also shows that the head wound of the beast is through the eye and he also suffers a wound to his arm, which would include his hand. As we will see in the next section, the false prophet will command everyone to receive a mark on either their right hand or the forehead. It is interesting that placement of the mark is on the same parts of the body as the beast's wounds, the head and the hand, which shows allegiance to the beast and Satan.
Revelation 13:16 - 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...
As discussed in the last section, the false prophet causes the image of the beast to speak to persuade the world to worship the beast and execute those who refuse to worship the image. In this section, we see that the false prophet requires the masses to take a mark, in addition to worshipping the beast's image. This mark clearly pays homage to the beast, because it bears his name, as we will see in the next section. Also, the false prophet requires everyone to place the mark on either the right hand or forehead, which are the same areas on the body of the beast that are struck when he dies from a mortal wound, as discussed in Revelation 13:3.
The Greek word translated "mark" can mean an engraving or a stamp used to identify something, or a brand-mark to show ownership, which shows that the mark is a sign of allegiance to the beast, so those who take the mark belong to him like slaves. Similarly, as discussed in Revelation 7:3, a mark on the forehead of God's people shows that they are His servants. God also marks people to separate them from His enemies or protect them. Satan counterfeits God by offering physical provisions with the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:17) and kills those who refuse the mark, effectively separating the beast followers from his enemies.
Incidentally, God commanded His people to bind His word on their forehead and on their hand, which are the same places on the body that the beast gets wounded and where the false prophet commands the masses to place the mark of the beast:
Deuteronomy 6:4-8 - "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes."
The mark of the beast is not placed on both the forehead and the hand, but on one or the other. The hand is typically associated with "works" in Scripture, so placing God's commands on the hand show a person's commitment to do those commands. Recall from Revelation 13:3, that a mark on the forehead may point to the "third eye" or pineal gland which some believe is the "seat of the soul." So putting God's Word between the eyes may speak to God's command to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength" in the passage above.
Accordingly, in Satan's counterfeit scheme, those who choose to put the mark of the beast on their forehead would commit themselves wholly to the beast in every way, but taking the mark on the hand may show allegiance to the beast only through works. In other words, getting the mark on the forehead may speak of a person's genuine devotion to the beast, and while these patrons may go beyond what the false prophet requires and take the mark on their forehead to show their total support and commitment, the rest of the masses would merely go through the motions to appease the beast by their works and take the less harrowing mark on the hand.
In the end, however, whether someone is a die-hard adherent of the beast or they take the mark merely to save their life, both parties irrevocably reject Christ when they take the mark and worship the beast, therefore, their eternal destiny is the same:
Revelation 14:9-11 - Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
The following passages show that the "small and great, rich and poor, free and slave" encompasses all people groups, which means the false prophet will impose the mark of the beast on everyone in the world, no matter what their status:
Psalms 49:1-2 - ...Hear this, all peoples; Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together.
Revelation 19:17-18 - Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great."
In short, the false prophet will direct the masses to take a mark on the right hand or forehead to show allegiance to the beast, which is a counterfeit toward God who also marks His servants. In addition, the false prophet will command all to take the mark no matter what their status, which shows that Satan's counterfeit even tries to match God's impartiality between people groups:
Job 34:19 - Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of His hands.
Revelation 13:17 - ...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.
In the last half of the Tribulation, Satan will wield his power to control his global kingdom through the beast and the false prophet. First, the beast will move to subdue the nations through political and military might. Then the false prophet will bolster the beast's domination through religion with worship directed toward the beast and a global economic system that pays tribute to the beast and requires everyone in the world to submit to the beast by taking a mark or face certain death.
The mark of the beast will replace all the world's monetary systems. Those who refuse to take the mark and manage to escape execution for not worshiping the beast will have to trade illegally in a black market or hunt and gather off the land to survive, which will be difficult in the wake of Tribulation judgments that will cause massive devastation to the earth. With lack of resources to survive, it is no wonder that the human population will plummet during the Tribulation!
Isaiah 13:11-13 - "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger."
It is interesting to note that under the Law God forbid His people to make marks or cuts in their flesh because tattooing was a pagan practice:
Leviticus 19:28 - You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.
But this command might serve a purpose in the Tribulation. Law abiding Jews will not take the mark, which will force them to flee from the beast. Recall from Revelation 12:14, some believe that Gentiles will help the Jewish remnant escape to the wilderness and give them provisions for 3 ½ years. So it is interesting that God judges the Gentiles who survive the Tribulation on whether they gave provisions to the Lord's brethren - the Jews:
Matthew 25:31-33 - "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left."
Matthew 25:34-40 - "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'"
Matthew 25:41-46 - "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Therefore, it is possible that Christians in the Tribulation will run a sizable black market to help each other and the Jewish remnant survive in the Tribulation when the false prophet implements the mark of the beast.
It is reasonable to assume that the global economic system ordered by the false prophet will use computer technology to scan the mark of the beast like a bar code or credit card. As we saw in the last section, the mark is placed on the forehead or right hand. The Greek word translated "on" can also mean "in" or "upon." Bible scholars disagree on whether the text describes a mark on the skin like a tattoo scanned like a bar code, or if it is a computer chip embedded under the skin and scanned like an RFID chip. The following commentator suggests that it might be both a visible mark and an internal chip:
"For this mark to have any degree of permanence it must, in some sense, be "in" the tissue. The use of [epi] doesn't really deny that. it is simply saying that the mark is visible to someone, or to some device such as a scanner. In fact the word "mark" (charagma) comes from the verb charasso which means "to cut to a point, then to inscribe." it is really not farfetched to see the phrase as describing some kind of minor surgery - a "cutting to a point" - for the insertion of a chip that will be "inscribed" with data."
It is now common practice to insert computer chips in animals to tag or ID them, and now there is a move in the business world to implant people with computer chips for convenience and security reasons (source: 1, 2, 3, 4). It seems that society is becoming conditioned to accept implantable chips which might be a prototype technology that the mark of the beast will use.
Whatever the mark is, no one will accidentally take it because it will identify those who voluntarily worship and give allegiance to the beast. While the information scanned from the mark will likely be unique to each person who takes it to buy and sell, the mark will visibly show the name or number of the name of the beast.
The number or the name of the beast suggests the use of Gematria, which is a Jewish numbering system where each letter in the alphabet is assigned a number and the sum of a word is a numerical value tied to the meaning of the word or name (source). We will discuss Gematria more in the next section, where John shows that the number of the beast is "666."
Revelation 13:18 - 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.
In the last section, John showed that the false prophet will command everyone in the world to take a mark to buy and sell. This mark will visibly show the name or number of the name of the beast, which shows that those who take the mark will voluntarily show allegiance to the beast.
It is interesting that John tells us that the number of the beast is the number of a man and is "666," and says this information is wisdom, but only those who have understanding can use this wisdom to calculate the number of the beast. Those who have both wisdom and understanding are believers who fear the Lord:
Psalms 111:10 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.
Proverbs 2:1-8 - My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.
Even though Revelation is not a sealed book like Daniel, most agree that prophecy is progressive, so God may not reveal the full understanding of the number of the beast to believers until closer to the time that the false prophet implements the mark of the beast:
Daniel 12:9-10 - And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand."
Nevertheless, as mentioned in the last section, calculating the number of the name of the beast through Gematria might be in view, where each letter in the alphabet is assigned a number and the sum of a word is a numerical value tied to the meaning of the word (source). However, we must use caution when looking at Gematria because of its association with the pagan practice of numerology, though it would be fitting for the false prophet to include pagan practices like numerology to worship the beast and incorporate it in his mark.
That said, God said that believers who have wisdom and understanding from the Lord would understand the number, which suggests it doesn't have anything to do with pagan numerology but is a supernatural understanding given by God. In any event, while Gematria is widely used in the mystic form of Judaism called Kabala, the form used in mainstream Rabbinic Judaism may have some merit since it looks at the Biblical meaning of numbers and not personal numerology.
Consider the Greek Gematria for Jesus, which is "888." As discussed in the study: "Prophetic Patterns in Numbers," the number eight speaks of new beginnings and three of something points to the triune nature of the Godhead. Jesus is part of the triune Godhead and He made a new covenant at the cross, so the meaning of the Gematria fits. Similarly, the number six is the number of man because God created man on the sixth day, and man is also a triune being made in the image of God, so it fits that John said that "666" is the number of a man. But the three sixes may also point to the counterfeit trinity of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet.
If Gematria is in view to calculate the number of the name of the beast, then the letters in his name will add up to "666." That said, it is futile to use Gematria to try to figure out who the beast is now, because we don't know which language to use to calculate his name. Besides, there are countless names that can add up to the number of the beast in any given language, and he won't be revealed until the Tribulation anyway (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Incidentally, since Israel was under Roman rule when John penned Revelation, it would be ironic, yet plausible, to find the number of the beast's name coded in the first seven Roman numerals, as depicted below. What this table suggests is that the number of the name of the beast may point to when the beast will arrive on the scene, which is about 6,000 years into human history, as discussed in the study "Prophetic Patterns in Numbers." If true, this shows we are near the time of the Tribulation because the genealogies in Scripture show that we are near the end of the sixth millennium since creation:
While mystery around the mark will continue until it is fully understood by believers in the Tribulation, the example above might be one of many things revealed in the number of the name of the beast. It is also interesting to note there are three other times that three sixes or multiples of six are found together in Scripture which show how "666" relates to the beast. The following examples show types of the antichrist that point to the antichrist's military might, his image, and his economic system marked by his name and number which take wisdom to calculate:
In closing, it is clear that the dragon will dominate the world through every facet possible. First the dragon will set out to conquer the world with politics and military might through the beast, then he will compel the world to worship the beast and his image through the signs and wonders of the false prophet. Then the dragon will take full dominion when the false prophet calls for a global economic system and demand allegiance to the beast and enforce it by executing those who refuse to take the mark bearing the name or number of the name of the beast. These events which describe the global dominion of the beast bring us to the end of the Tribulation, where God will pour out His final judgment and return to set up His Kingdom on Earth after He defeats the dragon's global kingdom.
Revelation Flow Chart:
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