************ Sermon on Revelation 13:11-18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 8, 2009
"The Beast Out of the Earth"
Let me remind you of what we have seen the last couple of times we looked at the Revelation. We looked at the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil, Satan. We looked at everything he did throughout the ages to try and stop the coming of Jesus Christ – remember the image of him crouched before the woman waiting to devour the child? In spite of Satan's efforts, the child was born, snatched up to God and to His throne – which we said represents the entire ministry of Jesus: His birth, life, ministry, miracles, teachings, suffering, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and being seated at God's right hand. At the same time, Satan was kicked out of heaven. Remember, I said this was Satan's D-Day, Decision-Day? At this point, Satan was defeated. Does Satan give up? Does he wave the white flag? Does he surrender? Of course not! He is furious. He knows his time is short. Instead of attacking Christ, he now attacks Christ's church. All his fury is now directed against the followers of the Lamb. D-Day has come but V-Day or Victory-Day is not yet here. The war has been won by Christ and lost by Satan, but the battle still rages.
How does Satan attack the church? Remember what we said last time? Satan forms a counterfeit Trinity. In this Trinity, Satan is the counterpart to the Father, the beast out of the sea is the counterpart to the Son, and the beast out of the earth is the counterpart to the Holy Spirit.
Satan's first beast is the antiChrist. Like the Lamb, he had a fatal wound – but he lives. Just as Jesus is the image of the Father, so the first beast is the image of the dragon. Just like the church worships and follows the Lamb, so the world worships and follows the beast.
Satan's second beast is repeatedly referred to as the false prophet (Rev 16, 19, 20). He is a parody of the Holy Spirit. His relationship to the first beast is the same as the Spirit's relationship is to Jesus: he represents the first beast, he points people to the first beast, he wants people to worship the first beast.
I hope you realize two things as we go through the Revelation. First, that the church is under attack. We saw that already when we looked at the seven letters to the seven churches: the persecution, the economic sanctions, the loss of homes and families and businesses and even life (Rev 2-3). We saw the Gospel martyrs and heard their cries under heaven's altar (Rev 8). We saw the opening of the Abyss and the three woes (Rev 9-11). We saw the persecution of the two witnesses – who represent the church of all times and places (Rev 11).
Second, I hope you always keep in mind that Christ has already won, that D-Day has already happened and V-Day is soon to come. We saw that, didn't we, in Revelation 1 – Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth, all peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him, He is the First and the Last, the Living One, He holds the keys of death and Hades. In Revelation 5, it is He who takes the scroll of destiny from the hands of God. Also in Revelation 5, it is He Who receives power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise; before Him the most magnificent angels fall down in worship: the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders. In Revelation 6, 8, 16, it is He Who sets into motion the judgments of God: the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven bowls.
Today we are looking at the second beast – a tool of Satan to attack the followers of the Lamb. The question I am asking is, how exactly does he do his work?
A The first tool used by the second beast as he attacks the church is deception.
At first glance, this second beast seems far less threatening than the first beast. The first beast comes out of the sea. Remember what the Old Testament says about the sea? The sea is the place of chaos, evil, wickedness, a synonym for the Abyss we see in Revelation 9. Keep in mind what Isaiah says about the wicked:
(Is 57:20) But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.But the second beast comes out of the earth, from solid ground, someplace stable and secure (Rev 13:11).
The first beast is terrifying in appearance – ten horns, seven heads, blasphemous names, resembles a leopard, with feet like a bear, and a mouth like a lion. By way of contrast, the second beast has two horns like a lamb (Rev 13:11). He looks gentle, harmless, and non-threatening. Who is afraid of a lamb?
B This is all an act. Don't let appearances fool you. The harmless appearance of the second beast is contradicted by his speech. He looks like a lamb but "he spoke like a dragon" (Rev 13:11). What does this mean? Does he breathe fire? Does he speak harshly and loudly? No. Remember, he is a servant of the dragon, who is described as the ancient serpent, the devil, Satan (Rev 12:9). Two things are supposed to come to mind when we hear these titles. First, the Garden of Eden. Remember what the serpent did there? He spoke lies. Second, Job. Remember what Satan did before the throne of God? He said lies about Job and all of God's servants.
The key word describing the second beast is found in verse 14 – "deceived."
(Rev 13:14) Because 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.The second beast is a deceiver. He follows the example of Satan who is the father of lies.
The second beast looks harmless when compared to the first beast. But that is a gimmick, a ploy, on his part. He pretends to be harmless. He pretends to be cute and cuddly. He pretends to be safe. He pretends to be a lamb. But that is what makes him so dangerous. Don't let appearances fool you. With the power and authority that he has, he is dangerous and he is formidable.
(Rev 13:12) He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.
The second beast is the fulfillment of the very thing about which Jesus warns us:
(Mt 7:15) Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Cf Mt 24:11)These false prophets don't announce their deception. They don't show us their teeth.
Remember the who of the first beast. We said he is the four earthly kingdoms of Daniel 7 who oppose God and His people. We said he was Roman emperors like Nero and Trajan and Hadrian who persecuted the early church. We said he is more than one person, one power, one movement – remember, he is a composite of all four beasts of Daniel 7. He is whatever hates and opposes the one true God and persecutes His church in every age.
So who is the second beast? Like the first beast, he is not merely a person, an organization, a power, a regime. He is every Satanically inspired power that deceives people with lies over against the truth of the Gospel.
C Remember how Satan attacks the church through the first beast? By outright persecution. By beatings, jail sentences, bloodshed, and death. How does Satan attack the church through the second beast? By deception and lies and falsehood. In Muslim and Communist lands, Satan attacks the church through the physical persecution of the first beast. Believers there know exactly who the enemy is. They know exactly what they are facing. They know the consequences of holding to the Gospel. In our culture, Satan attacks us through the lies of the second beast. He wants to deceive and confuse and lead astray so we don't know who the enemy is or where the attack is coming from. We don't even realize we are being lied to and we often have no idea about the consequences until it is too late.
What is worse? Persecuted believers in Muslim and Communist lands often say they are praying for us – because the deception we face is worse than the persecution they face. Meanwhile, we are busy praying for them because none of us want to face physical attack for being a follower of Jesus.
D The second beast is busy at work in our culture, our land, our time. Let me give you some examples.
Let's start with books being sold to our schoolchildren through the Scholastic Book Club. Because these books appear on approved lists, many parents think the books are harmless. Two books I am thinking of are, "Conversations with God" and Conversations with God for Teens." Like the second beast, they look and sound harmless. But, don't let appearances fool you!
The author answers various questions asked by kids using the "voice of God". However, the "answers" that he gives are not Bible-based and go against the very infallible Word of God. For instance (and I paraphrase), when a girl asks the question "Why am I a lesbian?" the answer is "You were born that way." Then she is told to go out and "celebrate" her differences.
Another girls poses the question "I am living with my boyfriend. My parents say that I should marry him because I am living in sin. Should I marry him?" The reply is, "Who are you sinning against? Not me, because you have done nothing wrong."
Another question asks about God's forgiveness of sin. The reply, "I do not forgive anyone because there is nothing to forgive. There is no such thing as right or wrong."
Do you hear the teaching of the second beast? There is nothing wrong with homosexual practice. There is no ultimate right or wrong – you decide what is right for yourself. There is no absolute truth.
Another example. What is one of the assumptions that our culture makes about mankind? Our culture – in spite of all the evidence that says the opposite – assumes the goodness of man's character. A gang member rapes and kills and his mother comes on TV and says he is a good boy. Someone dies and it is just assumed they are in heaven – when is the last time you heard questions asked about someone's eternal destiny? A kid gets into trouble at school; the parents get mad at the school rather than the kid because they assume their child or youth is an innocent angel (and, can you believe it, this happens at our Christian School too). This is not the Bible's teaching which says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This is the teaching of the second beast.
A third example. Tolerance. Tolerance used to mean that though I disagree with you, I still will treat you with respect. Today, tolerance means I no longer am allowed to disagree with you. Who am I to judge your behavior or your beliefs? This is the teaching of the second beast.
Do you want more examples of the lies and deception of the second beast? Consider these:
-a woman has the right to choose an abortion – it is up to her alone to choose
-evolution is taught as a fact
-more and more people believe euthanasia is okay
-gay marriage is acceptable
Think, for a moment, what the work of the second beast does to evangelism. How do I call people to repent if they believe they have done nothing wrong and they are basically good? How do I call people to believe in Jesus as the only Savior when all beliefs are valid and all paths lead to God and heaven? How do I tell people to acknowledge God, when people are told they are the final judge and determiner of what is right and wrong? How do I warn people about hell when it is believed everyone ends up in heaven?
II Supernatural Power
A How does the second beast do his work of attacking the followers of the Lamb? His first tool is deception. His second tool is supernatural power. Listen to verses 13-15:
(Rev 13:13,15) And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men ... (15) He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.Doesn't this sound amazing? Statues that breathe and speak, fire that comes down from heaven?
We need to understand this in light of John's time and place and culture. At the time of John, the use of magic was very common in pagan and emperor worship. There was nothing new about this. Think of Moses and the Egyptians. Under Moses' direction, Aaron threw down his staff and it became a snake; and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts (Ex 7:11). Moses changed water into blood; but the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts (Ex 7:22). Aaron stretched out his hand over the water of Egypt, and frogs came up and covered the land; the magicians did the same things by their secret arts (Ex 8:7). Let's fast forward to the book of Acts. We meet there a man by the name of Simon Magus. Simon was a magician who amazed the people for a long time with his magic (Acts 8:9-24).
What is the connection to the second beast? Like the magicians of Pharaoh's court, like Simon Magus, he is able to do amazing feats of magic – he is able to make a statue of the first beast breathe and speak.
The purpose of this magical power? To drive people to worship the emperor and the first beast and, ultimately, Satan himself. To drive people to stop worshiping Christ.
B Is any of this real: water into blood, staffs into snakes, statues that live and breathe? Wrong question. It is not important whether or not it is real. We need to always keep in mind what was said by Moses and Jesus:
(Deut 13:1-3) If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, (2) and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," (3) you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.Both Moses and Jesus admit that magicians can do great things. But displays of power, by themselves, mean nothing. They are merely devices used by the second beast to lead us to worship Satan instead of Jesus.
(Mt 24:24) For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.
There are always people who claim to do amazing things: healings, visions, wealth multiplication. Do you recognize the name of Peter Popoff? He claims to do healings. A couple of years he was exposed on national TV as a fake. Stuff like this is the work of the second beast in order to lead people away from Jesus.
III The Mark of the Beast
A How does the second beast do his work of attacking the followers of the Lamb? His first tool is deception. His second tool is supernatural power. His third tool is a mark.
(Rev 13:16-17) He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, (17) so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Notice three quick things. First, the Revelation stresses that everyone is forced to get the mark – small and great, rich and poor, free and slave. No one is exempt. Second, the Revelation stresses that the mark is conspicuous, highly visible – it is on the right hand or forehead. It is designed so everyone knows that you follow the beast and the dragon. Third, the consequence of not getting the mark is economic deprivation – you cannot buy or sell. Wasn't this the experience of the early church? Because they worshiped Christ rather the emperor, they were removed from the trade guilds, they could not buy or sell or own property. In some extreme cases, they even faced death.
B What does this mark sound like? Remember Revelation 7 and the sealing of the 144,000? Who are these people? They are all the people of God. They are marked as belonging to God and protected by Him from the wrath He is about to pour out upon the world.
Nothing about Satan is original. He forms a counterfeit Trinity. The first beast is an imitation of Christ – the antiChrist. The second beast is a parody of the Spirit. Satan's servants imitate the signs and wonders of Moses and Aaron. And now we see Satan imitates the sealing of the 144,000 with the mark of the beast.
C Is this a literal mark? Well, let me ask, do you see the mark of Jesus on me or on the person beside you in the pew? Likewise, the mark of the beast is not literal. For the people of John's day it took concrete form in the currency. Many coins back then were stamped with the image of the emperor. Over the image were often written the words, "savior, lord, god, divine one." Because of this, many Christians refused to transact business with these coins. This marked them as refusing allegiance to Rome and the emperor, as being traitors. And, without the coins they could not engage in the business of buying and selling.
D Put all of this together and do you see what we end up with? If yours is the mark of God you escape the wrath of God but you face the wrath of the beast. If yours is the mark of the beast you escape the wrath of the beast but you face the wrath of God. The mark you wear determines the wrath you escape and the wrath you face. Whose mark are you wearing? Whose wrath do you fear?
Our passage ends in a rather strange way – with a cryptic reference to a hotly disputed and much debated number:
(Rev 13:18) This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.
One of the principles for interpreting the Revelation that I laid down in one of my first messages is that numbers are important to John. They symbolize spiritual realities. Remember the 144,000 – 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel? We discovered this stands for all the people of God of all times and all places. Remember the constant repetition of 1,260 days, 42 months, time times and half-a-time, 3.5 years? We discovered this stands for the whole time between the two comings of Jesus Christ. Remember the 2 witnesses? We learned 2 is important because all testimony is verified only by 2 or 3 witnesses.
The number of the beast is "666." I want you to notice that "6" is one less than "7." We see that number 7 often in the Revelation: 7 churches, 7 stars, 7 lampstands, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls, 7 horns. The number 7 goes back to the beginning of time – the 7 days of creation. Seven, we discovered, is the number of fullness, the number of completeness.
The number of the beast is "666." I want you to notice that "6" is one less than "7." Do you hear what John is saying? The beast, like Satan, is less than 7. The beast, like Satan, is less than perfect. Satan tries to be like God, the first beast tries to be like Christ, the second beast tries to be like the Holy Spirit – but they don't quite measure up. They always fall short. God is a 7. Christ is a 7. The Holy Spirit is a 7. But the dragon is a 6. The first beast is a 6. The second beast is a 6. They are imitations of God but are not God.
Now, this is "man's number." When was man made? On the 6th day. How was man made? In the image of God. Is man a perfect image of God? Even before the fall into sin there is no one who would say man is God or the same as God. He is less than God.
Do you see where Satan is put? And the first beast? And the second beast? Down to man's level. Like man, mere creatures. Like man, less than God. Like man, fallen. Like man, a 6.
To worship the beast, or the other beast, or the dragon is foolishness itself. Yes, they all are scary. Yes, they have power to persecute and to deceive. But they are not God. Their number is 666, not 777!
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