INDUCTIVE STUDIES ON REVELATION
A Sweeping History of the Conflict Between God and Satan
Part Three: The Beast (cont'd), Babylon, and the False Prophet
(Rev. 17:1-18; 13:11-18)
11 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. 13 And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 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. 15 And it 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. 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, 17 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. 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.
Before we continue with chapters 12-14, we need to look at another passage in Revelation which goes into more detail about the identity of the Beast and the city which supports him: Revelation 17. There are 3 main groups of characters in this chapter: the Beast, the city which supports him, and the 10 kings which support him.
Before answering any of the questions, read all of Revelation 17 in order to make sure we are not taking things out of context.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BEAST (Rev. 17:1-18; 2 Thess. 2:3-4)
The Beast (Rev. 17)
Revelation has described the Beast as having 7 heads. According to Rev. 17:9, first what do the 7 heads represent?
Few, if any NT scholars, claim that this does NOT refer to the city of Rome. She is called the city built upon the seven hills (of Rome).
These 7 heads also represent what (17:10)?
The five who have fallen: Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero (Some try to claim that there were more than just these 5 emperors. Julius Caesar though was never emperor of the Roman Empire; the other 3 reigned for such a period of time and were recognized only in a few parts of the Roman Empire that no one ever seriously considered them as emperors (Ray Summers, Worthy is the Lamb, p. 81, 192).
The one who is: Vespasian
The who is yet to come and will reign for a short period of time: Titus
The eighth: Domitian (the emperor ruling at the time John wrote Revelation and who was persecuting Christians towards the end of the first century).
What is interesting about this 8th emperor is that he is said to be one of the 7 previous emperors (remember in Rev. 13 where John said that the beast had a fatal wound and yet came back to life). Many Romans feared that the evil Nero who had committed suicide had actually faked his suicide and was going to return to terrorize Rome again, leading an army of Parthians (Iranians) from the east. Although Christians don't believe in reincarnation, many saw the emperor Domitian who persecuted the church as a type of Nero reincarnate. Domitian may not have been literally Nero; however, he sure acted like Nero.
According to Paul what is the one thing the Beast does which identifies him to be the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:3-4)?
This would constitute an act of blasphemy. Again, according to John, what does the Beast speak with his mouth (Rev. 13:5)?
The Woman (17:3-6)
Already in v. 9 we have seen that the woman represents the city of Rome towards the end of the first century. What name does John give this city in v. 5?
This ancient city spoken of at length in the Book of Daniel was considered the heart of darkness by the Jews. Not only did she destroy the Temple and Jerusalem the city of God, she also tried to force idol worship upon the Jews. In fact, in one of the most well-known stories in Daniel, the king of this city, Nebuchadnezzar the king, tried to force everybody to worship a golden image he had made of himself. This will really become more important when we study about the false prophet in the second half of Rev. 13.)
How splendid is this city (17:4)?
What is her major crime (17:6)?
Once more notice that she is feasting particularly upon the followers of JESUS. Whoever else these people are who are being persecuted, they are Christians.
The 10 Kings (17:12-13, 16)
According to 17:12 the 10 horns on the Beast represent what?
What do these 10 horns do with their power and authority?
Finally, in v. 16 how do the 10 horns and the Beast treat the great city which supported the Beast?
THE BEAST'S ASSISTANT--THE FALSE PROPHET (Rev. 13:11-18)
Just as the divine realm has a holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so the demonic realm has its trinity: the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet. How does John describe the False Prophet (13:11-13)?
What does this False Prophet make the people and all who dwell on the earth do (13:13-14)?
According to v. 14 what does this False Prophet make?
What does the False Prophet do to this thing he has made (13:15)?
The false prophet in Revelation most likely is the imperial priesthood, the priests who promoted the deity of the Roman Emperor. This priesthood set up temples promoting the worship of the Roman emperor throughout the Roman Empire, especially in Turkey where John was living. This priesthood was basically a propaganda machine.
According to the History Channel (not the most Christian of media), as Christianity ascended in the Roman Empire, pagan temples began to lose more and more of their worshipers. This forced pagan priests to come up with ingenious ways to recapture the people. They designed acoustical devices which enabled them to do the very thing this False Prophet does in this passage.
The Beast has not made himself known today, that's assuming even that he WILL emerge during our life time. It is easy today to see though how such a propaganda machine might operate today. Hitler's Germany was flooded with propaganda from Joseph Goebbels promoting adoration for Hitler and hatred for the Jews. Even today we see in our own society how the news media can fawn excessively over somebody who will promote their agenda. What happened in the first century can easily recur today.
What does the False Prophet do to those people who do not worship this image (13:15)?
What does the False Prophet cause all to be given (13:16)?
What happens to those who refuse this "gift" (13:17)?
Here we come to one of the most famous passages in the entire Book of Revelation. The number which the False Prophet forces upon people is the number of the Beast. According to 13:18 what is that #?
What does this number mean? Earlier we spoke about John's use of numerology, that is, numbers representing something beyond themselves: 3 for the Trinity, 4 for the earth, 7 for the combination of earth and heaven, 12 for divine government/religion, etc. The number 6 is one short of the divine number 7. This number (6) falls short; it embodies evil. Three 6's may be the same as evil cubed, that is, ultimate evil. Whoever this Beast is, he is the ultimate evil human being, energized and driven by Satan.
On a more shaky ground, we can also say that 666 refers to a well-known use of numbers in the ancient world called "gematria," in which each letter of the person's name has a numerical value (I = 1; V = 5; X = 10; L = 50; C = 100; etc.). Caesar Nero in Hebrew has the numerical value of 666. John may be claiming that the emperor of his day was a "reincarnate" Nero, the famous persecutor of Christians who put to death both St. Peter and St. Paul. OR it may actually be the numerical value of the future, final Antichrist. Only time will tell.
Although I claim that this second interpretation is on shaky ground, I am not saying that it is not true. Too often NT "scholars" make claims which cannot be substantiated one way or the other. Many will actually sneer at this second interpretation. Sneering though is not evidence for or against an interpretation.
Case in point. Today it is standard among NT scholars to dismiss outrightly any allegorical interpretation of the Bible. For example, some Christians will claim that Abraham sending out his servant Eliezar to get a bride for his son Isaac is really the story of God the Father sending out His Spirit to get a bride (the church) for His Son Jesus. Sounds preposterous right? Don't be so quick in dismissing this. C.S. Lewis in Reflections on the Psalms defends this method of interpretation. Why? Not because he feels comfortable with it, but because (1) those who reject this method have not presented valid reasons to reject it and (2) the early church actually used such a method. Why, all of a sudden, has the early church gotten it wrong? Why are our methods better? A compelling, conclusive case has not been made either for or against this method.
The reason this second interpretation (about 666 being the actual numerical value of the Beast's true name) is on shaky ground is that it escapes any accountability, that is, you cannot prove it or disprove it. So, I would just ask that as your process this interpretation, that you hold onto it humbly.