Counterfeit Faith of the Beast

SYNOPSIS - The “beast from the earth,” the “False Prophet,” mimics the Lamb with a counterfeit of the true faith – Revelation 13:11-18.

Black Lamb - Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
The visions of
 Revelation include images of two different “beasts” – The “beast from the sea” and the “beast from the earth.” The first “beast” is a composite of the four creatures Daniel saw “ascending from the sea,” a figure given authority over all nations and peoples. In contrast, the second “beast” was “ascending from the earth.” His function is to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth” into giving their allegiance to the first “beast.” - [Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash].

The images of this “beast from the earth” and the “number of the beast” allude to two passages from the book of Daniel:
  • (Daniel 7:17) - “These four are four kings that will ascend out of the earth.”
  • (Daniel 3:1-7) - “Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was 60 cubits, and its breadth 6 cubits.”
  • (Revelation 13:11-18) – “And I saw another wild-beast, ASCENDING OUT OF THE EARTH; and he had two horns, like unto a lamb, and began speaking as a dragon… Here is wisdom: he that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man; and HIS NUMBER IS 666.
The “beast from the sea” is characterized by its political and military might - “Who can make war with it?” It has “ten heads” and “seven horns,” and combines the animalistic features of all four of Daniel’s “beasts” in itself. One of its “seven heads” appeared “slain unto death, and its death-stroke was healed.”

The clause, “as having been slain,” was applied previously to the “Lamb” - “a lamb standing as having been slain.” Similarly, the “beast” was wounded “and lived,” just as Jesus “died and lived” (ezésen - Revelation 2:8, 5:6, 13:3-4).

The restoration of its wounded “head” mimics the death and resurrection of Jesus. Its “resurrection” caused the “inhabitants of the earth” to render homage to it; thus, the “beast” is a counterfeit of the Lamb - (Revelation 13:3-6).

The “beast from the earth” employs religious devices AND economic coercion to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth” to render homage to the “beast from the sea.” It has “two horns like a lamb.” It is not identical to the “Lamb,” but it mimics him - It is a counterfeit - (Revelation 5:5-6, 13:11-15).

Unlike the “Lamb,” the “beast from the earth” does not have a full complement of “seven horns,” but only two. The limited number again stress that it is a counterfeit of the true “Lamb.” But the number “two” also indicates it is a beastly counterpart to the “two witnesses.” They prophesied for “twelve hundred and sixty days” and had performs signs reminiscent of Moses and Elijah. Likewise, the second “beast” calls fire down from heaven, just like Elijah did. This why he also is labeled the “False Prophet” - (Exodus 7:11, 1 Kings 18:38, 2 Kings 1:10, Revelation 11:3-6, 13:13).

The “False Prophet” was anticipated in the seven letters to the churches when Jesus warned against “false apostles,” the “Nicolaitans,” the “prophetess Jezebel,” and the “teachings of Balaam.” Already, the “False Prophet” was active among the seven churches in Asia - (Revelation 2:2-6, 2:14-15, 16:13, 19:20).

The “False Prophet” uses “all the authority of the first beast to cause the inhabitants of the earth to render homage to it.” It achieves this by performing “great signs.” In this way, the “False Prophet” leads the “inhabitants of the earth” to build an image to the first “beast.”

The description of the “number of the beast” and its “image” borrows language from the story of the great golden image “set-up” by Nebuchadnezzar, and to his command for all his subjects to venerate the image:
  • (Daniel 3:1-7) – “Nebuchadnezzar made an image…the height thereof sixty cubits, its breadth six cubits…the king ordered all peoples, races, and tongues to fall down and render homage to the image. Whoever did not render homage to the image was slain.”
  • (Revelation 13:14-18) – “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, that there be given them a mark on their right hand or upon their forehead…six hundred and sixty and six.”
The stress is on the use of religious deception by the “False Prophet” to coerce humanity into giving allegiance to the first “beast,” though he also uses economic power. The language from Daniel provides the background for the number of the Beast, six hundred and sixty-six. And this background links the “number of the beast” to idolatry. Thus, in Revelationidolatrous religion and political power are inextricably linked.

The height of Nebuchadnezzar’s image was “sixty” cubits, its width “six cubits.” The Greek Septuagint version of Daniel reads hexékonta and hex cubits, the same form of the second two numbers added to “six hundred” (hexakosioi) in Revelation, the “number of the beast.”

The “number of the beast” is figurative. Likewise, the “mark of the beast” is contrasted with the “seal of God” placed on the foreheads of all who follow the “Lamb” – It is the satanic counterfeit to the “seal of God” - (Revelation 7:1-3, 14:1-4).

In Revelation, the “mark” on one’s forehead designates to whom one belongs. Humanity is divided into two groups - Those who “follow the Lamb,” and those who take the “mark of the Beast” and render homage to it. Total allegiance is given to one or the other.

Thus, the “beast from the earth” imitates the “Lamb” - It employs a counterfeit of the true faith to deceive men and women. The goal is to destroy the church, either through apostasy, or more directly, through economic pressure and other forms of persecution - (“It made war against the saints”).

If there is a lesson here for the contemporary church, it is that the “beast” will imitate the true faith in order to deceive the “saints.” Its counterfeit will look and feel all too familiar to a great many Christians.


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