And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon.
We have much more material and even more imagery, regarding the first beast. However, I believe we will find full fruition further in Revelation–to which I will give you a sneak preview: “Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. And the beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. These have one purpose and they give their power and authority to the beast.” -Revelation 17.
Now though, we will continue to waltz through chapter 13 of Revelation and meet the second beast, the beast from the earth. Let not your heart be troubled, we will be returning to the end of chapter 12 and beginning of chapter 13 when we consider chapter 17. Nevertheless, it’s important that we move on in the text with the option of doubling back. After all, Revelation does the same–it has much more to say on the beast, except; “this is the Antichrist” (I couldn’t resist).
Back to divinely inspired words, that:
- Would be understood by the first century church
- Are written in an apocalyptic genre
- Are a small sample of a larger vision, context must be considered
- Are a part of God’s word and therefore cannot contradict
“And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth;
and he had two horns like a lamb,
and he spoke as a dragon.
And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence.
And he makes the earth
and those who dwell in it
to worship the first beast,
whose fatal wound was healed.
And he performs great signs,
so that he even makes fire
come down out of heaven
to the earth
in the presence of men.
And he deceives those
who dwell on the earth
because of the signs
which it was given him to perform
in the presence of the beast,
telling those who dwell on the earth
to make an image to the beast
who had the wound of the sword
and has come to life.
And there was given to him
to give breath to the image of the beast,
that the image of the beast
might even speak
and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast
to be killed.
And he causes all,
the small and the great,
and the rich and the poor,
and the free men and the slaves,
to be given a mark
on their right hand,
or on their forehead,
and he provides that no one
should be able to buy
or to sell,
except the one who has the mark,
either the name of the beast
or the number of his name.
Here is wisdom.
Let him who has understanding
calculate the number of the beast,
for the number is that of a man;
and his number is
Ok, I confess, I added the Nero. Working backwards, as I hesitate to do, we’ll look at the number of the beast briefly–my briefly, so grab a couple of cups of coffee.
Nevertheless, it is fresh in our minds and we desperately desire to know the identity of this second beast. We read, “here is wisdom,” and, “let him who has understanding calculate the number,” and we pray for wisdom and understanding. We search and scour the scripture, intimately inspect the internet for information, buy books, pester pastors, all with the intent of the identification of this beast. It can consume the conscious. We simply can’t figure it out. Why not, we’re smart, we have understanding, we with wisdom search? Apparently not. The greatest wisdom and understanding would lead one to take their Vitamin A. Let me state it in this way: if we struggle, to no avail, with the completed Scripture and a thousand theologians, how could the first century church figure it out? What kind of cruel and callous composition did John send to the early church? Was the author’s aspiration to his audience that of impossible instruction? Here it is, 666, good luck with that one; 2000 years later, they’ll still be attempting to make sense of it.” Or, can we make an objective assumption that the author’s aspiration to his audience was literal? Let’s read, omitting a few passages for time’s sake; “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea. To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”
I am not hiding anything, the entire context between these words is open and available in these missives. I have left nothing out. There is nothing in those words to suggest that John has concluded his writings to the seven churches and moved on to the 20th century, sorry; 21st century church. I should probably explain my sarcasm to those who don’t see my no-so-subtle sarcasm. It’s based upon the thousand theologians that insisted that the rapture would happen prior to the year 2000. What astonishes me is that half still have employment in ministry and that the other half are dead, even after asserting that Christ would, without a doubt, return in their lifetime. Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, have erroneously exclaimed Christ would return in their lifetime, but he didn’t. Yet we still buy their books. I have insight into Christ’s return for his people, that I will share with you. Two actually. First, it hasn’t happened yet. Second, I know when it will be and you do as well–When the Father says so.
I struggle with date-setters; not only the ones who are very specific and found to be frauds. Stating, in writing mind you, things like, Jesus will return for his church on September 27, 2017. They are exposed as frauds on September 28, 2017, at least to the world. Most christians already knew they were frauds the second a date was set. For we know, “He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.'” However, there are those who, while claiming to not set specific dates, in actuality, are. If one claims that the Lord will return within their lifetime and then they die, they have deceived. At a closer inspection of their deception, one should realize that it was their entire perception that led to deception.
They were looking for “the Antichrist.” They had not used a proper hermeneutical method, such as the CAGED method to inquire about the number of the beast. Because their hermeneutic was flawed, they became a fraud. They didn’t take their Vitamin A. The author’s aspirations to his audience were not considered. They looked at their culture, climate and relative calamity and then inserted it on to Revelation, rather than understand what it meant to the original, intended audience. The early church with a little wisdom and insight could figure out to whom John was referring with the number, 666.
They also had the context, which is king. Furthermore, the took their Vitamin E. They used the imagery of the Old Testament to understand that which John was writing. John writes: “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead, and he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.”
Were they, or are we, to take this literally? The Israelites did, and to this day some still do. When God commanded them in Deuteronomy 11:18, “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead,” they physically festooned phylacteries and fastened them to their foreheads, which Jesus said was all for showing off in Matthew 23:5.
Taking Vitamin E and C, the first century church would have understood that the hand represents that which one does and the forehead represents that which one thinks. Remember, God sees the inside, and he knows who has his mark. “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh,” Paul writes.
In a contrasting way, the mark of the beast is outwardly. Not that it is literal, but that it is worldly. Much like the mark of God, which while inwardly manifested, can and should be seen outwardly in one’s actions, the mark of the beast manifests itself clearly. Remember the song, “Be careful little hands what you touch?” One’s actions speak louder than one’s words.
“And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” C.S. Lewis is correct, “there are only two types of people in the end, those who say to the Lord, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom the Lord says, “thy will be done.” However, since I am an habitual line-stepper, let me take it one step further. There are only two types of people now, and then. Those who don’t worship the beast are killed. In the first century church, they were persecuted to the point of death for having a king other than Caesar. Nero would soak them in oil and set them ablaze to illuminate his garden. He also blamed christians for the great fire in Rome. In modern times actually, the name Nero has become synonymous with fire. Perhaps you have had the CD burning program, Nero on a computer. Nero didn’t set Rome ablaze, but he did selfishly benefit from it. What is it with Nero and fire?
“And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.”
Nero died by the sword. And it was thought to be the end of the empire. But we will cover this in greater detail soon.
What did John see? What did the early church see? We must walk a while in their shoes, ignoring the modern practice of interpreting things based on how we feel.