Dear radio friends,
In this series of messages on the Reformed Witness Hour we have been considering the signs of the coming of Jesus Christ. Most recently we began to look at the sign of Antichrist in the New Testament and we looked at that from II Thessalonians 2 and the first verses in Revelation 13. In looking at the Antichrist, we have seen that though the Antichrist will be a future reality, the spirit of Antichrist is always present in the world. So, we have to watch against that spirit. We have also seen that though the Antichrist will be an individual, one person at the end of the world, he will not stand alone but will represent all that is opposed to Christ, indeed, all of unbelieving humanity.
In today’s message, we will see that, though the Antichrist is a political ruler, there will be a religious aspect to his kingdom. Though the Antichrist is referred to as a beast, representing the dragon, he will come as a lamb with deceit. That is because he comes as a pseudo-Christ—in the stead of and in the place of the true Christ.
In our message the last time, we looked at the first ten verses of Revelation 13. We stood with John on the shore and we watched a beast with seven heads and ten horns rise out of the tumultuous sea as a ruler of the nations of the earth. Now in verse 11 of Revelation 13, with John, we turn and we see a beast rise out of the earth. Revelation 13:11-15 reads:
And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
Perhaps as we get into this, the most important thing for us to understand about this second beast is that he does not represent a kingdom or a ruler separate from the first beast. Instead, this second beast is a part of or aspect of the kingdom of Antichrist. He comes under Antichrist with the same purpose, fighting for the same cause. Just as the first beast receives his power from the dragon and represents the cause of the dragon, so this second beast receives his power from and represents the cause of the first beast. You see that in verse 12: “he exerciseth all the power of the first beast”—he receives his power and he serves the cause of the Antichrist. That is clear also in the second part of verse 12 that says, he causes all that dwell on the earth to worship the first beast. He wants to create a following of the Antichrist. So verse 14 says that he did miracles in the sight of the beast, or more literally, in behalf of, or as a herald of, the first beast.
Who is this second beast? What does this second beast represent? In Revelation 17 you have a similar vision. Only, in Revelation 17, you have one beast, the first beast with the seven heads and the ten horns, and then a woman riding the beast. That woman is the second beast here in Revelation 13. In Revelation 19:20 this second beast is called “the false prophet.” We read this in Revelation 19:20, “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image.” So Revelation 19:20 calls the second beast the false prophet. The false prophet in the book of Revelation is false Christianity. It is all the false religions of the world come together as one unified force. It is all the thought and all the religion and all the ideology of man that is false. What makes it false is this, that it is disconnected from God’s revelation in the Scriptures, from Jesus Christ, and is, in fact, opposed to Jesus Christ.
So we see in the second beast the religious aspect of the kingdom of Antichrist—the union of all the religions of the earth, in the end, as a part of the Antichrist’s kingdom. It is not just a religion that is against Christ or that is antichristian, but a religion that is of the Antichrist himself because the Antichrist will take the place of God and, as a man, will be worshiped. That is the aim of the devil and all the antichristian spirit that is in the world throughout history—to subject the thinking of religious people, and especially of those who call themselves Christians, to one, central, false religion of man that is against Christ. This will be combined with the political power of the kingdom of Antichrist. We must be aware of and watch for this spirit in every age.
Before we look more closely at the second beast here and a description of who he is, I think there is an important lesson and principle for us to see. That is that the union of church and state is antichristian. That there must be an institutional separation of the state and the church, of religion and of politics. The civil government has no business dictating religion. Yes, it must allow the people of God freedom to worship, but the church and believers are bound in the end only by God’s Word. That is true in the education of our children. That is true in morality and moral issues or family values, in economics. In every area of life, we ought to obey God rather than men. That is because, even though the government is bound by the Word of God and, in a sense, represents God’s own authority and rule, the government is not able to and is not called to represent the spiritual rule of Jesus Christ in this world. This is the church’s work. It is the church’s work to preach the gospel; it is the church’s work to declare what is truth; the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. What we see as we look at history is that it has usually been the case that governments are corrupt; that generally they are led by wicked men; and so they are antichristian. They arise out of the sea of the nations, out of the tumult of politics and the turmoil of social affairs. Out of them comes the Antichrist himself. This is the spirit of the Antichrist that is always present there.
It is important for us to recognize this not only so that we maintain a separation in the religious aspect of our life from the government of the land, but also so that we do not put our confidence in government; that we do not trust kings and princes; but rather that we trust in Jesus Christ.
This has important application in the political developments of our own land in the last year or so. You look, for example, at the decision of the Supreme Court concerning the homosexual marriage. Or you look at the push in our society to accept immoral lifestyles. You see that it is going to come to the point where the church will say “No,” to the demands that the government places upon it. When that happens, we should not throw up our hands, as God’s people, as though our situation is hopeless. We must remember that Christ is King, that He rules by His grace and Spirit and Word in and through the church, and that there is a spiritual rule in the church that the government cannot touch. Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
As we look at this second beast, we see that there are some differences from the first beast. Yes, he is similar to the first beast, he is a beast with power—not just an animal but a fearsome creature—a fearsome creature that has power similar to that of the first beast. But notice also the differences, striking differences, that indicate how this second beast operates in the service of the first. He is different in his origin. The first beast rises out of the sea, which represents the tumult and the turmoil of the nations. In contrast, this second beast arises out of the earth. The earth is man’s beautiful home. You think of the beauty of the earth and then you think of man living in the earth. This is the place to which man is adapted to live. John turns from the tumultuous sea and he sees instead the rolling green hills. This beast arises out of the earth, not as a terrifying beast, but as a lamb that comes out of the stable, serene environment of the earth. This tells us about the religious aspect of Antichrist. He arises out of religions that seek peace and that promise serenity while the nations rage. This is what religion does—it offers peace to man. The Antichrist will come and will unite to his political power this religious aspect and will offer a universal solution to the tumult of the nations in a religion. He will be humanitarian; he will offer world peace; he will equalize financial disparity in the world; and he will offer people a religion that will give them peace of mind.
In the second place, this second beast differs from the first in his appearance. Whereas the first in his appearance is a horrific beast that appears with seven heads and ten horns out of the tumultuous sea and represents the dragon himself, the second beast, who comes out of the earth, is a lamb. He takes the appearance of Jesus Christ. He is a pseudo-Christ. He is gentle. He is domesticated. He is not a dragon, but a pet. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:15 that we should beware of false prophets that come to us in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravening wolves. In fact, the Bible tells us that the devil himself will appear as an angel of light. So the Antichrist will come with his religious deceit.
Third, we notice that this second beast differs from the first in his power. Yes, he comes with power, but he does not come with a military power; he does not come with the power of the sword and death, but his power is a power of words, a power of persuasion, a power of deception. He speaks as a prophet. A prophet is a representative of God, an ambassador. This is the way he comes with his deceit.
Fourth, we notice that his speech is different from the first. The first beast has the mouth of a lion and he speaks great things and blasphemies against God and against the people of God. He expresses the wrath of the dragon. The second beast is given a mouth, too, and speech. But his is the speech of smooth deception that matches his presentation as a lamb. Yes, in verse 11 he speaks as a dragon. But that does not mean he is a fire-breathing lamb. Instead it refers to the content of what he says. It is the same lie of the serpent but he comes with deceit. He will do the same work as the first beast, but his manner and approach will be so different.
The power of the deceit of the second beast, the religious aspect of the kingdom of Antichrist, is this, that he understands man. He rises out of the earth, man’s domain. He understands that man is religious, a religious creature, and so he will seek to satisfy man’s need for dependence on a deity. He understands the social and societal needs of man and he will seek to bring an answer to those. He understands that a man cannot be wooed and ruled by coercion and so he will come with great promises and bring the nations under his sway.
What is his purpose? His purpose is twofold. In the first place his purpose is to bring the nations of the world together in one religion and to deceive them into worshiping the beast. Verse 12: “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast.” You notice what is mentioned there as well—the healing of the wound. This refers to a religious unity. As long as the beast is wounded, this unity cannot come. But once this wound is healed, then the beast will bring unity between the religions of the earth. There will be a religious unity as well as a political unity in the kingdom of Antichrist. All of this, to serve the ultimate purpose of this second beast, which is to destroy the saints of God and the elect in the earth, as it says at the end of verse 15: to kill all those who will not worship the beast, who, according to verse 8, had their names written in the book of life.
The way that this second beast will do this is by means of tribulation and the mark of the beast. We will talk about those in upcoming messages. But here we see that he is especially opposed to Jesus Christ, and he breathes out his hatred against the church because he is against Jesus Christ. We, of course, can trace that all through history—all the way back to before the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, when the devil started a revolt in heaven. It is because he hates God, the purpose of God to send Jesus Christ, and the cause of Jesus Christ in the world that he comes against the people of God. God has cast him out of heaven. Jesus, the child in chapter 12, has been caught up into heaven, and so the devil pours out his fury against the church of Jesus Christ and against what Revelation 12 calls the remnant of the seed of the woman who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. The devil knows that to attack the church and to inflict damage on the people of God is to attack Jesus Christ Himself and to inflict damage on Him. This is the bruising of the heel of the seed of the woman. If the devil can destroy the seed of Christ, if he can steal away one of those for whom Jesus has given His life-blood, if he can take one name out of the Book of Life, then he has undermined God’s work, and that is his goal. This is the kingdom and the religion of Antichrist. Yes, it is about man. Yes, it worships the first beast. But the main purpose of it is to defeat God and His cause in this world.
From an earthly point of view, this second beast is going to be quite successful in the establishment of this worldwide religion. Not only earlier in the chapter, but also here in verses 15 and 16, we see that all the people of the earth wonder after the beast and they worship the beast. A religion of Antichrist is set up. The abomination of desolation, which Jesus speaks of in Matthew 24:15, comes. In II Thessalonians 2, he sets himself up in the temple of God as God, so that he is worshiped in the place of God. A part of the success of the second beast in getting all the nations to worship the first beast will be his ability to perform miracles. There will be a certain “wow-factor” to the work of this second beast. He will be able to call fire from heaven; he will make an image of the beast that will speak. We should understand those as real miracles, what are called in II Thessalonians 2 “signs and lying wonders,” or “wonders of the lie.” Every new prophet and every new revelation claims authenticity by the performing of miracles. This is what the beast will do—he will seek to demonstrate that the first beast is a deity. He will try, by his persecution, to put fear in the hearts of God’s people at the same time. This fear will create a separation between true and false believers, so that the church will be purged of hypocrisy. This is not something that the people of God will have to fear. In persecution, there will be a blessing that will come to the church and people of God.
Think today of the church that is under persecution. In the world the church usually finds itself in one of two situations—either under the sword of persecution or under the deceit of false teaching and the persuasion and the temptation of a materialistic and humanistic society. When the church today that is under persecution looks out at the church in the West that we are a part of, and it sees the temptation and the worldliness, it prays for us. It is strong under persecution and it prays for the church under prosperity. You see, persecution, in the end, will not be bad for God’s people. But this will be a part of the power that this second beast wields against God’s people.
But the real power and the real weapon of the Antichrist in this second beast will be that he gives power to this lamb to speak. This speaking is false teaching. With war and guns and bombs, man puts fear into the hearts of other men. But the Antichrist will realize that he will not get people to follow him by bringing them under physical coercion. Instead, he will come as a lamb. He will use every tool he can to communicate his message. He will use education; he will use the media; he will use the arts; he will use science; he will use civil rights; he will use politics—all of these things pressed into the service of his one religion, to bring man together behind his cause, the cause of Antichrist—a religion that exalts man, a religion of materialism, a religion of humanism in which not only is the beast worshiped, but man himself is exalted, a religion that is against Jesus Christ.
We need to be warned so that we are not deceived and so that we watching. This is why Jesus tells us about this second beast—the religious aspect of Antichrist, so that we are aware. In our day and age it is easy for us to be tempted and entertained and mesmerized by what the world has to offer. Think of what is offered by science and by pleasure and by money and by peace. These things are so attractive to us. The Antichrist, when he comes, will hold all this out as the answer to every dream and every hope that man has ever had.
This is the spirit of Antichrist. Are we caught up in it, or are we watching? Does the world come into our homes through media, Internet, television, entertainment, reading? Do we realize that the world is not neutral, that the things of this culture in which we live are not neutral? Jesus said, “If they are not for us, they are against us.” In all these things is the spirit of Antichrist, and believers are called to a spiritual separation from the world, so that we do not participate in the culture of the godless world around us.
But not only is there a warning here, there is also comfort. The comfort is this: as God’s people, we cannot be deceived. There is a remnant of elect spoken of here, whose names are in the Book of Life and who are not deceived. Yes, the Bible says, if it were possible, they would be deceived. Almost deceived, Jesus says in Matthew 24. But this is impossible. It is impossible because their names are written in the Book of Life, the book of the Lamb (v. 8). So the days of the Antichrist, Jesus says in Matthew 24, will be shortened. Satan may have a temporary victory over the seed of the woman here on the earth. But those days will be shortened—verse 5, forty-two months (three and a half years), times-time-and-half-a-time—not a complete picture but a half a picture. The Antichrist and his kingdom will come to a sudden end. Jesus will come (II Thess. 2) and destroy him with the brightness of His coming. So God’s people need not be afraid. Instead, we should look to Jesus Christ, who is on the throne throughout all of history and who rules over the Antichrist. We realize that the Antichrist himself is sent by Jesus Christ in preparation for His coming and that he himself serves the coming of Jesus Christ.
So, we must keep our eye on Jesus Christ, who is King on the throne in heaven. When we see these things taking place, as Jesus says in the gospel according to Luke, we lift our eyes and we know that our redemption draws nigh. That is our hope, even in the midst of an antichristian world.
Let us pray.
Father, keep us from being deceived by the spirit of Antichrist that is present always in the world. We pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly.” Amen.
Dear radio friends,