Symbology: The Beast out of the Earth

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(Rev 13:11 NIV) Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.

He looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon (dragon is Satan). When Satan speaks he speaks lies. He looks like a lamb but he is a false christ. Later he is called a false prophet (Rev 16:13, 19:20).

He has two horns and he should be contrasted with the two witnesses who are the true prophets of God. He even causes fire to come down from heaven to earth just like Elijah. The two witnesses cause a drought just like Elijah.

The power of the false prophet is derived from the beast and he uses brute force and deceit. The power of the two witnesses comes from the Holy Spirit and from prayer like Elijah who prayed for the drought (cf. Elijah James 5:17).

FALSE
PROPHET
TWO
WITNESSES
(Rev 13:13) And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. (Rev 11:3) And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.
(Rev 13:14 NIVBecause of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. (Rev 11:5) And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.

The Beast Out of the Earth (Rev 13:11-18)

Now another beast is revealed to John, only this one is distinguished from the previous since he comes out of the earth or land. This completes the trinity of evil—the dragon, the beast out of the sea, and now, the beast out of the earth. The land beast operates under the authority of the sea beast and is totally committed to promoting not himself, but the first beast. The beast out of the land is also called the false prophet in other places in Revelation (Rev 16:13; Rev 19:20; Rev 20:10), probably because he promotes the first beast. 

HIS DESCRIPTION (Rev 13:11)

And I saw another beast.” “Another” is the Greek allos meaning, “another of the same kind.” He plays a different role, but in character he is another qhrion, one who is beastly, rapacious, cruel, and of course hostile to the flock of God’s people like a wolf, though dressed in sheep’s clothing. He is seen “coming up out of the earth.” As before, “coming up” is a present participle portraying a gradual, but continual ascendancy as a world figure and leader.

Out of the earth” distinguishes and contrasts him with the beast out of the sea. These two beasts though similar, are diverse in origin. As the sea symbolized the mass of humanity, the nations, so “the earth, land, the ground, region, or country” (the Greek gh) may symbolize the nation Israel who is consistently related to the land in Scripture. As mentioned, some believe the sea refers to the Mediterranean and so the “earth” or land would refer to Palestine. Some think this beast will be a Jew, a false prophet among Jews who seeks to persuade men to follow the beast as the antichrist. On the other hand the contrast between the two beasts could simply be that the former arises first and at the time of terrible chaos among the nations (who are like the raging sea, Isa. 57:20) when people are fearful and crying for “peace and safety” and for a world ruler to settle world conditions. The second beast may come on the scene after world conditions have been settled somewhat, when chaos has given place to some order and a more stable government has settled in human society (the earth).

Some believe the idea that he is a Jew is supported by the things said about the second beast regarding his actions and character: (a) this beast is the false prophet who promotes the worship of the first beast by performing signs which are similar to Elijah’s, a prophet of Israel (Rev 13:12-13), and (b) he has two horns, like a lamb, the sacrificial animal of the Jews. But such a conclusion is not necessary.

However, in the light of the great anti-Semitism of the last half of the Tribulation, it seems unlikely that Satan or the first beast would allow a Jew to live much less occupy such an important position of power and authority. More than likely he is simply an important religious figure representing a rising religious and ecclesiastical movement which this second beast and Satan will use to promote the beast out of the sea (cf. Rev 17:7, 15-16). The harlot in chapter 17 refers to religious Babylon, ecclesiastical Rome. The waters there represent the many nations she has influenced. Walvoord says, “The identification of the second beast as the head of the apostate church is indicated in many ways in the book of Revelation.1)Walvoord, p. 205.  While this apostate religious system will be destroyed by the beast (Rev. 17:16), it appears that the false prophet will, because of his close affinity with the first beast, make it through the entire Tribulation period since Revelation 19:20 shows that both the first beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire together.

That the false prophet and the second beast are one and the same is clear from Revelation 19:20. The false prophet is the one who “performs signs in his (the first beast) presence (Rev 13:12-13), by which he deceived those who had the mark of the beast …” (Rev. 19:20).

And he had two horns.” The horns are symbolic of great power, but not to the degree of the first beast who had ten horns. His horns were like those of “a lamb.” As the lamb is a religious symbol, a symbol of sacrifice, so this beast is a religious figure, and, as a lamb is also symbolical of a mild, lamb-like manner, so this second beast will adopt a mild lamb-like appearance, but he will be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. So what do we read next?

And he spoke like a dragon.” That he will speak like a dragon shows us it connects him in character with the dragon, Satan. As with the first beast this beast gets his power from Satan. And just like the sea beast who begins his career as the white horse rider, proclaiming peace, so this mild religious appearance of the land beast is only a cover up, a sham for his real nature and goals.

There is an important lesson here for it demonstrates the typical behavior and character of any of man’s religions when a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is absent because in all man-made religions, the base upon which it operates is man and Satan’s deceptions, not God. Most religions will claim to be humanitarian, loving, and concerned for society, but in reality, since Satan is always at the root of the system (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Cor. 11:13-15), they can become vicious, cruel, and murderous as a wild beast whenever people do not toe the party line. A clear evidence of this are the many persecutions that have occurred in the name of religion like the inquisitions of Rome in 1233 and in 1542 and those of Spain in 1478 against Jews and Moslems. The New Age movement of our day is no different. This is a humanistic movement that talks about helping humanity, but in their language, they show a quick readiness to persecute Christians whom they know will stand in their way.

In New Age literature there is talk of a necessary cleansing process that will be needed to quell the opposition of those who resist the new religious/political order. Those who refuse to be initiated into Satan’s kingdom by taking the mark of the beast will be eliminated2)Erwin W. Lutzer and John F. DeVries, Satan’s Evangelistic Strategy for This New Age, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1989, pp. 148.

Lutzer and DeVries describe some of the goals of this new religious/political order. These will consist of things like: an end of nationalism, a new credit card system, a world food supply, and an emphasis on disarmament and the “elimination of nuclear weapons.” But note what they mention next that will be a part of the deception of this whole ploy:

All of this is to be done under the banner of love and peace. “Universal brotherhood” will be the slogan that will capture the aspirations and hopes of millions who will be drawn into the centrifugal force of this movement with best of intentions. The goals of this movement will be stated in such a way that it will appear that only the most obstinate and belligerent could possibly oppose such noble ideals.3)Lutzer/DeVries, pp. 149-150.

But orthodox Jews and Christians will oppose such a satanic system and one that will actually promote the deification of man. So what will happen to these who resist such a system? Will they be ignored and allowed the freedom to believe, train up their children, and worship God according to their own convictions?

A state legislator, appearing on an Omaha talk show, said:

We have to control church schools because fundamental, Bible-believing Christians do not have the right to indoctrinate their children in their faith, because we, the state, are preparing all children for the Year 2000, when America will be part of the One World Global Society and their children won’t fit in.

New Agers are not nave enough to believe that everyone will accept the dawn of this new day. Some will oppose the emerging New Order. For these, there is another solution: intimidation, starvation, and liquidation.

This is not our theory, but the expressly stated agenda of the New Agers who candidly admit that drastic measures will have to be implemented to keep people in line…

… Those religions that will not accept the lie that man is God will be systematically eliminated by whatever means is necessary. In the New Age, disarmament will be the guise used to get the nations of the world to surrender their sovereignty to an authoritative global political machine, which will in turn use those weapons (if necessary) to force everyone, especially the religious objectors, to get on board with the new agenda.

Understand Satan’s methodology: there is a vast difference between his advertising and the product that the purchaser receives. George Orwell called it news speak. Talk about disarmament but plan to use weapons on those who refuse to accept your agenda. Campaign for individual freedom but plan to eliminate the freedom of those who don’t toe the line. Affirm the value of humanity while at the same time you favor the systematic killing of the unborn and the eventual death of millions.4)Lutzer/DeVries, pp. 152-153.

And it was the same in the days of ancient Rome. 

Rome was cruel, and its cruelty can perhaps be best pictured by the events which took place in the arena in Rome itself. People seated above the arena floor watched gladiator contests and Christians thrown to the beasts. Let us not forget why the Christians were killed. They were not killed because they worshiped Jesus. Various religions covered the whole Roman world… Nobody cared who worshiped whom so long as the worshiper did not disrupt the unity of the state, centered in the formal worship of Caesar. The reason the Christians were killed was because they were rebels.

The late Francis Schaeffer wrote:

… their worship (speaking of worship of Jesus Christ) became a special threat to the unity of the state during the third century and during the reign of Diocletian (284-305), when people of the higher classes began to become Christians in larger numbers. If they had worshiped Jesus and Caesar, they would have gone unharmed, but they rejected all forms of syncretism.5)Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappan, NJ, 1976, pp. 25-26.

HIS DOMINION (Rev 13:12A)

And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence.” “In his presence” is the Greek enwpion which means in this context, “by the authority of” or “on behalf of.” The point is that he stands ready to do the bidding of the first beast and he has all the authority needed to carry out the wishes of the first beast, but it’s delegated authority and he exercises it on behalf of the beast and his worship in the world.

HIS DESIGN AND DETERMINATION (Rev 13:12B)

And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast …” The design or purpose of this beast or false prophet is to promote the authority and worship of the first beast, just as the Holy Spirit works to bring glory to Jesus Christ (John 16:14).

Whose fatal wound was healed” indicates that this deception is part of his propaganda program to sell people on the beast just as the Holy Spirit truthfully, by contrast, uses the resurrection to convince men of the person and work of Jesus Christ. As in the early church, the resurrection of Christ was followed by sign miracles to authenticate the message of Christ and His prophets (Heb. 2:4), so this false prophet does the same in his deception.

HIS DECEPTIONS (Rev 13:13-15)

Verse 13. “And he performs great signs” points us to his first deception through the use of miraculous signs. “Performs” is a present tense of repeated actions which indicates he engages in a display of miraculous signs one after another, though only two are mentioned here. “Signs” is plural. The verb here is poiew which means “to make, do, accomplish, bring about, produce, or perform.” “Signs” is shmeion which refers to a wonder or miracle that is designed to show or communicate something. The signs are used of course, to persuade men to believe in, follow after, and worship the beast.

Note that the signs are described as “great,” the Greek megas meaning “large, great,” but it is used of that which is great in the sense of significant, prominent, important, outstanding. The signs the second beast performs won’t be the run of the mill miracles that one hears about with pseudo healers or the paranormal events of today.

So that he even makes fire come down from heaven to earth in the presence of men” illustrates something of the power of his miraculous activity. Whatever this will be, it is clearly designed to counterfeit the miraculous works of God, either that of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:38 or that of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:5 (cf. also 2 Kings 1:10-15; Lev. 10:1-2). Some have suggested that this could be a reference to fire from heaven to imitate that which occurred at Pentecost (Acts 2:3) and could be a reference to pseudo-charismatic gifts to create a counterfeit religious community whose allegiance is to antichrist.

Whatever it is, it is a prominent sign and shows the kind of power Satan will display through his puppets, the beast and the false prophet.

Verse 14. “And he deceives … because of the signs which it was given to him to perform in the presence of the beast …” The next thing we see about the signs is that they are designed to deceive, they are deceptive. “Deceives” is the Greek planaw meaning “to lead astray, cause to wander, mislead, deceive.” This word is consistently used in Scripture of the work of false teachers who lead people away from God into some form of false worship (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9-12).

This should be a warning to all of us. Miraculous signs are not in themselves a proof that whatever is going on is from God. There are other issues that must be discerned with the Word of God as the final index and authority, never just our experience. However, we are living in an esoteric, mystic oriented age where reality is too often reduced to a personal experience or some kind of enlightenment. Just note the rise of the psychic “hotlines” and the emphasis in TV shows on the paranormal or on psychic phenomena. Even within the body of Christ, the emphasis has moved away from the Word of God as our authority to an emphasis on phenomena and subjective experiences, the kind promoted in many charismatic circles today.

Next, we are again told these signs are “given to him to perform in the presence of the beast.” The power to produce the signs is Satan’s (Rev. 13:2; 2 Thess. 2:9) and the false prophet performs them in the interest and by the authority of the first beast. As seen above, this is the meaning of “in the presence of,” but the repetition serves to stress the purpose brought out in the next sentence, “telling those who dwell on earth to make an image to the beast …” It is apparent from this that one of the primary purposes of the signs is to influence men on earth to follow the false prophet’s orders to make an image to the worship of the first beast.

Verse 15. “And there was given to him to give breath to the image.” The image which breathes and speaks is the second great deception of these verses. The word “image” is eikwn which is not a mere copy but in fact partakes and constitutes the very reality of the thing of which it is a likeness. The image is designed not only to portray a likeness to the beast, but the reality of his rule and worship. Whatever the image will be it will portray a likeness of the beast which becomes a symbol of his power and majesty, and of the character of his system.

We should note that the image is mentioned three times here in this chapter and in Rev 14:9, 11; Rev 15:2; Rev 16:2; Rev 19:20 and Rev 20:4. This image becomes the center of the false worship of the beast and the focal point of the final state of apostasy and idolatry.

Finally, we are told that the false prophet is able to give breath to the image. This gives it the appearance of life. However, it isn’t real life, zwe, but only breath, pneuma. Since breath or breathing is one of the signs of life, men think the image lives, but John is careful not to say that he gives life (zwe) to the image. Only God can do that. It is something miraculous, but also deceptive and false.

Then we are told the image of the beast, through this imparted breath, speaks. This is to be a further confirmation of the miraculous nature of the beast’s image. Some might see this as the result of some product of our modern electronic robot-type of technology. But such would hardly convince people of anything spectacular. Evidently it will go far beyond that.

As in the days of Daniel, those who refuse to worship the beast are to be killed. Notice that it is the image itself which causes the non-worshippers to be killed, undoubtedly by orders it gives when it speaks. While many will be killed, thousands will escape unharmed, but their lives will be in constant jeopardy.

HIS DEMAND AND DECREE (Rev 13:16-17)

Here we see the means by which the second beast carefully and exclusively distinguishes between those who will worship the beast and those who will not so that they might be identified and killed. He forces all men of every class and category of society to receive the mark of the beast either in their right hand or in the forehead, two places that are prominent and easily seen.

Here is sheer tyranny. The word “mark” is the Greek caragma which means “an impress made by a stamp” like a brand used on slaves and cattle. Men will become the slaves of the beast and will somehow carry the identifying mark of their slavery.

To enforce the worship of the beast and to make life impossible without his worship, men cannot buy or sell without this mark. As a result of the decree to worship the beast and be branded with his mark, multitudes of believers will be killed directly because they do not have the mark and refuse to receive it or because they starve to death since they cannot buy or sell. Some will survive, however, by living off the land or because other believers who have food share with those who do not (cf. Matt 24:15-25 and Matt 25:31-40).

We should note that to receive the mark of the beast is tantamount to the worship of the beast, to blasphemy of God, and rejection of Jesus Christ (cf. Rev 13:8; Rev 17:8; Rev 14:9-12; Rev 15:2; Rev 16:2; Rev 19:20; Rev 20:4).

What will the mark be like? Verse 17 answers this for us. It is the name of the beast or his number. This number is defined in verse 18 as 666. This is the name or number of the first beast and is one of the options for the mark, either his name or his number.

Please note, this also becomes the means of identifying the beast for who and what he is to the remnant of true believers.

This will not be just a number or identification mark on a plastic card. This will be on the person himself. It is interesting however, that within the identification numbers of various agencies, the IRS and others, the number 666 is beginning to pop up more and more.

GOD’S DECLARATION REGARDING THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST (Rev 13:18)

THE PROBLEM OF THE NUMBER

On the meaning of this verse and the number of the beast, 666, the views are almost as numerous as the number of commentaries written on the book of Revelation. John tells us to “calculate the meaning of the number of the beast.” Misunderstanding of John’s meaning here has led to endless speculation regarding the meaning of the number.

Some have considered the number to represent one of the Roman Emperors like Nero or Caligula or Titus. Thus, antichrist would be Nero redivivus (Rev 13:3). Others throughout the centuries have tried, using the number 666, to identify antichrist as some current historical figure of their day like Hitler, Mussolini or even Napoleon. Some have thought it stood for the word “Latin” telling us he would be a Roman. All of these simply show the endless speculations which have occupied the minds of students but are of very little worth to the student of this book and which I believe totally misses John’s point.

Why all the speculation and the problem? First, students have taken the verb “calculate” to refer to the ancient practice of gematria. Ancient languages, including Hebrew, Greek and Latin use standard letters from their alphabet as numerical signs.

For example, alpha (a) in Greek stands for the number one; beta (b) the number two; iota (i) for ten; iota alpha (ia) for 11; and iota beta (ib) for 12.

The Hebrew alphabet also had numerical value. Alep stands for one; bet stands for two; gimel for three and so on. Thus, a series of letters could form a word, and at the same time indicate a number.

Gematria took many forms and consisted in trying to guess the word from the number or trying to connect one word with another that had the same numerical value. On the walls of Pompeii, there are some graffiti, dated no later than A.D. 79, that illuminate the practice. One reads: “Amerimnus thought upon his lady Harmonia for good. The number of her honorable name is 45 (me [mu epsilon]).” The key to the puzzle seems to be in the word “Harmonia,” which was probably not the girl’s actual name but refers to the nine Muses (the goddesses of song and poetry); and 45 is the sum of all the digits from 1 to 9 (E. M. Blaiklock, The Archaeology of the New Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1970, p. 131). Another runs: “I love her whose number is 545 (fme [phi mu epsilon])” (Deiss LAE, p. 277). In these cases, the number conceals a name, and the mystery is perhaps known for certain only by the two lovers themselves.

Alan Johnson describes the practice. He says:

Similarly, the Jews (esp. Hasidim) used Hebrew alphabetical numbers to indicate concealed names and mysterious connections with other words of the same numerical value. For example, the Hebrew word nahas (“serpent”) has the same numerical value of the Hebrew word masiah (“Messiah”) (358). From this it was argued that one of the names of the Messiah was “serpent.” Some suggest that this may relate to Moses’ lifting up the “serpent” in the wilderness (cf. Num. 21; John 3:14)6)Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 533.

Irenaeus (second century) mentions that many names of contemporary persons and entities were being offered in his day as solutions to this number mystery. Yet he cautioned against the practice and believed that the name of the Antichrist was deliberately concealed because he did not exist in John’s day. The name would be secret till the time of his future appearance in the world. Irenaeus expressly refutes the attempt of many to identify the name with any of the Roman emperors. He feels, however, that the gematria approach is John’s intended meaning but warns the church against endless speculations (Contra Haereses 29. 30)7)Ibid..

Johnson goes on to say:

A number of other suggestions are made in that the six Roman numerals, that is I, V, X, L, C, D, adds up to 666. J. B. Smith says, “This alludes to the possibility of a Roman being the antichrist.” Smith also adds “All the numerals from 1 to 36 total 666. Beast in the evil sense occurs exactly 36 times (6×6) in Revelation.” Speculation continues ad infinitum using the letter equivalents for numbers in Hebrew, Greek, or Roman numerals. The very variety of the suggestions, however, and the unlikely and unprecedented supposition that someone would rise from the dead to take active part in earthly affairs leaves serious question as to all these imaginative explanations.8)Walvoord, pp. 209-210.

Walvoord says regarding this:

What then does John mean? The word “calculate” is the Greek pshfizw, “to count, compute, reckon” (cf. Luke 14:28 the only other place the word is used in the N.T.). This word was used of calculating the numerical value of a word or number, of voting, of a vote in the sense of resolving to do something. But it also meant to calculate in order to arrive at a value (cf. Lev. 27:23 where this word is used in the LXX translation of the OT Hebrew). In modern Greek it means “to observe.”

The best solution is the simplest one. First, nowhere else does John use gematria as a method, but he regularly uses numbers symbolically and especially the number seven (e.g. the seven spirits of God, churches, seals, trumpets, bowls; 24 elders; 144,000 sealed; six stone water pots [John 2:6]). Then in Revelation 15:2 we read, “ … and those who had come off victorious from the beast, and from his image and from the number of his name.” Not simply from his mark, but from the number. This implies a symbolical meaning.

Then what? In Scripture seven is the number of perfection, eight is the number of that which is new, three is the number of the Godhead and six is the number of man which falls short (falls short of the number seven). Man was to work six days and rest on the seventh which portrays the salvation and provision of God, a salvation which man cannot attain by his works because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

So John says “here is wisdom.” Where? In doing that which John counsels man to do. Who? Those who have understanding, i.e., spiritual discernment or biblical understanding. Then what are we to do? Number or evaluate the spiritual meaning of the number of the beast, which is, John says, “the number of a man.”

THE SIGNIFICANCE AND MEANING OF THE NUMBER 666

Though the beast claims to be God, he is not. He is only a man, indeed, an evil and demonically controlled man (cf. Rev 13:4f; 2 Thess. 2:4f). He is far short of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The three sixes may elude to the satanic trinity—Satan or the dragon, seeking to replace the Father, the beast seeking to replace the Lord Jesus Christ, and the false prophet, seeking to replace the Holy Spirit. But they all fall infinitely short of the triune Godhead. No matter how far we carry the number 666 mathematically as 666666666 it never becomes seven. It always falls short. The point is that this man and his system can never do that which God has promised. Man promises peace but brings war; life, but brings death; liberty, but brings slavery; happiness, but brings misery; significance, but brings the loss of true meaning and purpose in life.

As the ancient church father Irenaeus proposed, the number may indicate that the beast is the sum of all apostate power, a concentrate of 6,000 years of unrighteousness, wickedness, deception, and false prophecy.9)Johnson, p. 535.  The three sixes look at this wickedness in the past, the present and the future culminated in this endtime system of the beast.

The general character of the Tribulation is clearly portrayed in this chapter. It is a time of slavery, blasphemy, apostasy, and gross satanic activity. Let us thank God that we have the blessed hope of the rapture (Titus 2:13). But let us not, as we contemplate on all this, forget our responsibility to be involved in the propagation of the gospel of Christ, the only hope for the world.

Sources 1 10)https://bible.org/seriespage/19-beast-and-false-prophet-rev-131-18#P2545_608589

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References

↑ 1. Walvoord, p. 205.
↑ 2. Erwin W. Lutzer and John F. DeVries, Satan’s Evangelistic Strategy for This New Age, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1989, pp. 148.
↑ 3. Lutzer/DeVries, pp. 149-150.
↑ 4. Lutzer/DeVries, pp. 152-153.
↑ 5. Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappan, NJ, 1976, pp. 25-26.
↑ 6. Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 533.
↑ 7. Ibid..
↑ 8. Walvoord, pp. 209-210.
↑ 9. Johnson, p. 535.
↑ 10. https://bible.org/seriespage/19-beast-and-false-prophet-rev-131-18#P2545_608589

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