11* ¶ Then 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 are now introduced to the second beast. This is the idea that this beast is born out of those people who practice false religion.
The second “beast” is similar to the first beast in that it possesses the powers of civil government.
Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit: “Revelation Illustrated”
This beast has features of a “lamb.” The use of a lamb as a symbolic description immediately implies that this is also a religious beast because the “lamb” is often used as a symbol to describe Christ. This beast being “like a lamb” indicates that it only seemed to be religious, or it appeared to be like Christ. This appearance was used to deceive those upon the earth into worshiping him.
This beast also has two horns. In the Old Testament the “horn” is used to signify divisions of powers within a kingdom. In Dan. 7:24 ten horns symbolize ten kings which arise in a kingdom. Therefore, the two horns of this beast indicate there are two divisions of power making up this beast. This is exactly the situation which arose in the world after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire and the apostate church, which eventually became the Roman Catholic Church joined forces to form a beast with a single purpose–to rule the world. The two horns then represent the two divisions of power of this beast (Holy Roman Empire): (1) the civil power which was headed by the Emperor of Rome, and (2) the religious power which was headed by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, this beast possesses great strength, both civil and religious, which it uses to war against the people of God. It should be noted that Christ was described as a lamb having seven horns (5:6). This teaches that even though great powers persecute Christians here on earth, the complete and final power is held by Christ Jesus our Lord.
Notice also that this beast speaks as a dragon. The dragon is the devil. The dragon has always been symbolic of a powerful force which is capable of destroying even the strongest people. This beast is like that. He speaks with powerful sayings which are from the devil and deceived many people.
12* 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.
The Holy Roman Empire exercised all the powers of the beast which received the death wound but was healed (the Roman Empire). The Roman Empire had fallen, or as stated in verse 3, received a fatal wound. It had been “healed” or resurrected in the form of the Holy Roman Empire. The beast out of the earth (Holy Roman Empire) thereby obtained all the powers of the “first beast” (Roman Empire). By forcing all mankind to worship him, this religious beast caused “the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast.”
13* He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.
This tells of the symbolic powers of the relates beast. These were not actual miracles but great deceptions which the beast used to control people. The fire from heaven indicates how persuasive these deceptions were.
This beast performed things in the sight of men which were so amazing that they convinced the people his powers were actually coming form God. This verse does not teach that the beast actually had the power to bring fire down from heaven, but he did have the ability to do those things which would deceive men into thinking he could perform such miracles.
Causing fire to come down form heaven brings to mind the great prophet Elijah who did bring fire from heaven by praying to God (1Kings 18:37, 38). This may be the reason this particular symbolism is used to describe the deceptions of this beast. Elijah was a true and faithful prophet of God who actually performed this miracle. This beast is a “false prophet” (16:13) who deceived many people by working great wonders in their sight.
14* 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.
These signs deceived men into making an image to the beast which had the wound of the sword and has come to life (Roman Empire). To make an image means to make a representation or a copy of something. Images are used in idol worship to represent the god which people are worshiping.
Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit: “Revelation Illustrated”
Verse 15 says that people were forced to worship this image of the Roman Empire. This is seen in the fact that a religious structure was set up which patterned itself after the governmental organization of the Roman Empire. The structure of the Roman Catholic Church is an image of the Roman Empire. Just as the Emperor was the supreme authority in the Roman civil government, the Pope became the supreme authority of the Roman Catholic Church. He claimed infallibility here on earth with the authority to make laws dictating how people should worship God. This was a man-made organization which set up the Pope as head of the church here on earth. This is a direct contradiction to the Bible which stipulates that elders are to rule the individual congregations of the Lord’s church. This structure was an image of the Roman Empire, and it required people to worship this image, even under the penalty of death if they refused. Under this system, men were forced to worship the Pope who has set himself in the place of God as head of the church. This very situation was foretold by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3,4:
2 Thess. 2:3-4
3* ¶ Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
15* And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
The civil powers of the Roman government had the power to make certain the “image of the beast” (the Roman Catholic Church) existed. The laws of the land were used to force the subjects of Rome to worship according to the edicts of Roman Catholicism. History records many accounts of people who were persecuted, tortured, and even killed because of their refusal to worship as directed by Rome. The Holy Roman Empire sought out “heretics” and turned them over to the civil government of Rome for punishment. In this way the civil government of Rome gave life to the religious beast and caused many to worship the religious image of that government.
16* 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,
To cause someone to receive a mark on their right hand or forehead means that this person owes all his works, thoughts, and allegiance to the one whose mark he wears. In this case the mark indicated that all men of all walks of life, small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, were forced to give their allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church.
They had no choice because civil laws required that people worship according to the methods established by the Roman Catholic authorities. If they did not worship in this manner, they were considered heretics, sought out and punished.
This was not a literal mark. It is a figurative way of indicating who one pledges himself to. This same type of symbolism is used in 14:1 to show that Christians belong to God because they have his name written on their foreheads. Christians do not have God’s name literally written on their foreheads, but they do commit their minds and will to him.
When men render their labors and allegiance to anything, they figuratively wear that mark on their right hand and forehead.
17* and he provides that no one will 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.
This beast was in control of practically everything in this world. If any man expected to function in business or work, he had to be in subjection to this beast. He had to bear the mark of the beast, his name, or the number of his name. All of these indicate that the man was in agreement with the beast and gave his allegiance to him. When one worshiped according to the direction s of the beast, he could “buy and sell” without fear of reprisal from these religious or civil authorities.
18* 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.
To interpret this verse properly one needs wisdom. We must have an “understanding” of the symbols used in this book and apply this knowledge to the number of the beast in order to determine its proper meaning.
This number “666” is the number of the beast and also the number of a man. We will not discuss the many attempts to interpret this number. We must realize that this number is not given to identify the beast. We know the identity of the beast. This was explained in verses 11 through 17. This beast is that great religious power which united itself with the civil government of Rome to form the Holy Roman Empire. It later evolves into many different types of false religions which work closely with the governmental forces of this world in order to deceive many into following the ways of the devil.
Like most of the numbers in Revelation this one is descriptive. It is used to give certain information about this beast. We use numbers in a manner similar to this to a certain extent in our language. For example, some people believe specific numbers are lucky or unlucky for them. Many tend to associate the number “13” with something that is unlucky.
As is the case with other numbers in Revelation we believe that this number can be derived by examining how it is used in other passages in Revelation and applying that meaning to this passage. This also agrees with the message in this verse which says we must have wisdom to be able to count the number of the beast. The understanding we must have may very well be an understudying of the entire book of Revelation which we can use to determine the meaning of the number of the beast.
The number 6 is only used three times in the book of Revelation. It is used in each of the three series of seals, trumpets, and plagues to bring us to the end of all things, or to the second coming of Christ. The seventh section in each of these series then takes us into the time of judgment, the final rewarding of God’s people, and the final destruction of those who follow Satan. This enables us to take the meaning of the sixth seal, the sixth trumpet, and the sixth plague and learn what it means to have a number “666.”
The sixth seal (6:12-17) teaches that at the second coming of Christ, all physical things of this earth will be destroyed. Those who have not obeyed God will seek to hide from him in any way possible to avoid his wrath.
The sixth trumpet (9:13-21; 11:12-14) describes the terrible situation of those at Christ’s second coming who are not spiritually-minded, or who have not worshiped God. All things which claim to be spiritual, but are according to man’s laws, will be destroyed.
The sixth plague (16:12-16) shows that God will gather all those together who have not been obedient to him. It also shows that this gathering will be a time of unimaginable sorrow for those people.
Therefore, we may conclude properly that the number “666” figuratively shows that this beast will be completely destroyed upon Christs second coming. The physical powers of this beast will come to an end. There will be no power in existence except God’s. The spiritual nature of this beast will also be destroyed. The only people who have any spiritual hope at this time will be those who have trusted in Christ, not the beast. And finally, this beast will be brought before God in a very sorrowful state to receive its judgment and the final plagues of God. This beast will be totally destroyed as described by the number “666.”
This is the meaning of the number “666” when applied to the beast, but we must remember that it is also the number of a man. It will be the number of any man who puts his trust in something other than God. The powers of man have no meaning at all beyond death or Christ’s second coming. Therefore, we must put our hope in the almighty, eternal power of God in order to inherit eternal life.