The Beast Out Of The Earth - Rev. Herman Hoeksema
11 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. 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, whose deadly wound was healed.
13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
14 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.
15 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.
16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
We have discussed the first beast, which came up out of the sea and which combined within itself the appearance of a leopard, a bear, and a lion, which had the ten horns and the seven heads. We came to the conclusion, in the first place, that this beast is the symbol of a great political world-power, as is evident from the passages in the Book of Daniel which refer to similar beasts. We found that it is not merely a king or emperor or government that is here pictured, but that the beast represents the entire power, the government and its dominion, and that they belong together inseparably. We also found that this world-power is universal in its sway. It has dominion over all nations and tongues and tribes, and that, not by main force, but by free alliance of all the nations together. For they all wonder after the beast, think him great, admire him, and subject themselves to him willingly, offering him even their worship. But universal this kingdom also is, we saw, because it has absolute sway over all things in its kingdom, over industry and commerce, over science and art, over religion and philosophy, and over all the powers and talents of creation.
As to its spiritual character, we found that this kingdom is anti-God and anti-Christ, anti-kingdom and anti-saints. This was plain from the fact that the beast received his power and throne from the dragon, the old serpent, the devil, the incurable opponent of the Most High and of His Christ. This is clear also from the fact that he bears names of blasphemy on his seven heads, that he has a mouth to blaspheme, and that he opens that mouth actually to blaspheme the Most High and the saints of Christ in His tabernacle. This is clear, in the third place, from the fact that he kills and persecutes the saints who refuse to worship the beast. And, finally, this is evident from the fact that he himself allows himself to be worshipped as God instead of the Most High. Thus the kingdom of .man under Satan is complete. It is a kingdom which has sway over all the universe, over all men, over all the powers of creation, a kingdom in the which man worships his own work and in the which the devil is lord supreme.
As to the historical realization, we pointed out that it is already in the world as to its spiritual principle, and that it is in the making all during the history of the present dispensation, revealing itself more or less boldly at different stages of history. In the second place, we warned that you must not imagine that it has already reached its full manifestation and that Revelation 13 has already been fully realized. But, in the third place, we also pointed out that for him who has understanding and who can at all read the signs of the times, it is plain that the time is at hand and that all things develop very fast in the direction of this fascinating world-kingdom.
Now the text speaks of a second beast. And to prevent any misunderstanding at all, let me say from the outset that there is a definite relation between the first and the second beast. We must not have the impression that in the first part of the chapter Antichrist was pictured in its full manifestation, and that now in the second part we have the representation of something quite different. But much rather we must maintain that in the entire thirteenth chapter of Revelation we have the picture of Antichrist. The two beasts together form the picture of the full and complete antichristian power. But the first beast pictures it in its political aspect; the second beast deals with its religious and moral and scientific forces. The first beast tells us that this kingdom has sway over all men and over all things; the second beast rather explains to us how this first beast exercises his authority.
The Meaning Of The Second Beast
It is clear from a glance at the text that the symbolism of the first part is simply continued. In the preceding part of the chapter we found the picture of a beast rising up out of the sea, with seven heads and ten horns, and appearing like a leopard, a bear, and a lion, all in one. In that first part of the chapter we found things that were really unintelligible without the second. And therefore, to complete the picture we must really insert the picture of the second beast into that of the first.
The full symbolism is as follows. The first beast is followed by a second, who rises up out of the earth. He is less formidable in appearance. Nor is his origin in the stormy sea, but from the more quiet and more stable earth. He looks like a lamb, it seems, for he has horns as of a lamb. But when he speaks, he reminds one of the awful red dragon. He stands in a very definite relation to the first beast. Repeatedly this is indicated in the text. He exercises all his authority in the sight of, in the presence of, in behalf of, as servant of the first beast. All that he does he does in the presence of the first beast. And therefore, the purpose of this second beast lies in the service of the first. And this soon becomes apparent. For the second beast causes the inhabitants of the world to wonder after the first, admire him, and worship him. This second beast makes man build an image of the first beast, in order to worship the beast through his image. This second beast causes all the worshippers of the beast to receive a sign which distinguishes them from those who refuse to worship the first beast, in order that they may be killed. This second beast is, therefore, as it were, the actual power of the first; and the first works and exercises his power through the second. The first beast could not exist and could not exercise his authority and would not be worshipped without the work of the second beast. And the second beast would have no reason to exist and to work, were it not for the fact that this first beast must reach its full power.
What now does this second beast represent?
It is plain from what we have said that it cannot represent a second kingdom. True, in Daniel, as we have said, the beasts are symbols of kings together with their kingdoms. And also here we have the picture of a beast. But let me call your attention to the fact, in the first place, that this second beast makes a radically different impression from the first and from the beasts that are pictured in Daniel 7. There we have the wild animal, - leopard and bear and lion, and all combined into one. But here we have an entirely different picture. This beast evidently makes one think of a lamb, first of all. He has horns like those of a lamb, though he speaks like the dragon. In the second place, let me call your attention to the fact that evidently his power is quite different from that of a king. A king commands, makes laws, and thus exercises authority. But this beast, although it exercises authority, even the same as that of the first beast, does not exercise his power by commands, but evidently by persuasion. He speaks. And what this speaking of the second beast implies may become plain from the repeated indications in the text concerning the manner of his work. We read that he makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the best, that he deceives man by the great signs and wonders which he performs, that he says to them who dwell on the earth that they should make an image. He causes all who worship the beast to receive a sign.
Hence, we receive the clear impression that the beast here mentioned does not work like the first beast, but that he is of a different character. He comes by speaking and doing great signs and wonders. He comes therefore with the persuasion of a prophet. He does not force, but convince. He does not command and issue laws, but he wins the hearts of men. And if we add to this that we read repeatedly that this second beast works in the sight of and in the presence of the first beast and that he does all he can for the power and maintenance of the first beast, it is plain that this second beast represents some power in the kingdom, some tremendous influence in that great, universal kingdom which we have pictured to you according to the first part of the chapter, through which the hearts and minds of men are influenced and bewitched and charmed, so that they worship the beast and admire him and submit themselves gladly.
What power, then, does this second beast represent? We will find no difficulty in identifying him. Scripture itself tells us. In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation we find that this same beast is referred to. And there we read, vs. 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. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire that burneth with brimstone." And in Revelation 20:10 we find mention of him once more: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are." The identity is unmistakable. The beast that is mentioned in these passages is evidently the first beast; and the false prophet is none other than this second beast, with the two lamb's horns, who speaks as the dragon. And therefore we come to the conclusion that this second beast is called the false prophet.
What is a prophet? We must banish from our minds the popular conception that a prophet is chiefly a man who foretells the future. True, a prophet also foretells the future; but that is not his only work. We find from Scripture that a prophet is characteristically a person who speaks for someone else. Aaron is called the prophet of Moses when they two together go to Pharaoh, and Aaron expresses the message instead of and for Moses. So are the prophets of God among Israel. They are men who speak for God and bring His message, who appeal to the minds and hearts of men, of Israel, in behalf of Jehovah and His covenant and cause. They teach and speak and reveal the will of God and try to persuade men that they may embrace Jehovah's cause.
Now this second beast is also a prophet: he speaks for someone else. He tries to influence the minds of men, to persuade them, to gain them for the cause of him in whose interest he speaks. But he is a false prophet. He does not preach the truth. He speaks the lie. He persuades men and teaches them, and by doing so deceives them, so that they believe the lie. And if we compare this with what we find in the words of the passage we are now discussing, we shall find that this is actually his character. In the first place, his very appearance is deceiving. He looks like a lamb; and one would receive the impression, therefore, that he is in some way affiliated with Christ, the great Prophet, and that the words he speaks are the words of Christ. But he speaks like the dragon, that is, he derives the contents of his prophecy and teaching not from Christ, but from the devil, from hell itself. He is a prophet. He speaks for someone else. But the one for whom he speaks is the first beast, who exercises all the authority of the devil and received it from him. In his presence and in behalf of him he speaks and exercises his authority. In his sight and in his behalf he does his great signs and wonders. For him he persuades men to establish an entire worship, and erect an image. And he causes that all who refuse the image are killed. In a word, this prophet is the exact opposite of what Elijah was among Israel. Elijah stood before Jehovah; this prophet stands for the opponent of Jehovah. Elijah spoke the truth of God; this prophet speaks the lie of the dragon. Elijah persuaded men to break down the image of Baal and serve and worship the true God; this prophet, persuades men to forsake Jehovah and make an image for the first beast and the dragon. Elijah persuaded men to kill the priests of Baal; this prophet persuades men to kill the saints of the Most High.
How must we conceive of the realization of the second beast in history?
In order to answer this question I would say, in the first place, that the beast as a whole does not represent a single person, a single individual. I know, there are interpreters who urge this very strongly; but it is not necessary to maintain this, nor is it very probably the interpretation. We found in explanation of the first beast that it did not simply refer to an individual king or emperor or governor, but just as much to the kingdom or world-power under the sway of that government. And the same must be borne in mind here. I do not think it impossible that in the future some great philosopher will arise who will dominate almost any intellectual movement of his time, so that all others follow him. But this beast does not represent a single individual, but rather all the power of false philosophy and science and religion combined.
In the future all science and philosophy and all religion shall be united into one science and one philosophy and one religion. There shall be no more difference of opinion. Just as politically the world shall be one, so it shall be one intellectually and religiously. They shall all have the same ideas about things. They shall all admire the same science. They shall all have the same religion. There will be a new religion. Already we hear of it in our own time. And that new religion shall embrace all things; it shall be universal. All creeds and all denominations and all sects shall be blended and united into one, so that there shall be no more strife and ecclesiastical contention. It shall have a universal creed, laying down the precepts and principles for every sphere of life. It shall lay down rules for our individual life, just as the Christian religion. It shall lay down the principles for our home life, just as the Christian religion does. It shall reveal principles for the life of society and for the life of nations. It shall lay down the rules for religious life in particular, tell all men how they must worship and what they must worship. It shall be a new system of thought and religion, with a new creed, universal in its scope, and, at the same time, with a new god. That new god will be the beast, the great world-power, whom all shall admire and worship and for whom all shall erect an image, in order that they may worship the same.
Thus it is also plain that the first beast has need of the second. The universal world-power, being based upon the unity and voluntary submission of all, has need of the power of false prophecy, of this universal science and religion. For the moment men shall begin to differ principally in regard to their religion and worship the disintegration of the world-power shall have begun. The second beast must serve the first, is indispensable to the first. The world-power has need of false science and philosophy and religion to maintain his authority and the integrity and unity of his kingdom.
The Activity Of The Second Beast
If we understand this, it is not very difficult to comprehend the action of the second beast.
In the first place, we read in the text that he doeth great things, signs and wonders, and that it is exactly through these that he succeeds in gaining men for his cause and deceiving them. Naturally a prophet must do signs and wonders. These must establish his prophetic authority, the truth of the things he speaks. Thus it was with Moses before Pharaoh, and at the same time with the magi of the king. They performed signs and wonders to impress the authority with which they appeared. Thus it was with Elijah on Carmel, with Christ as a prophet, with the appearance of the apostles in the midst of the heathen world. They all performed signs and wonders in order that these might corroborate the truth of their message. Thus it is also in the antichristian world-power. This second beast performs signs and wonders. So it was foretold already by Daniel the prophet. The Antichrist will perform marvellous things. So it is prophesied by Christ Himself: "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect," (Matthew 24:24).
So it was also foretold by the apostle Paul, who predicted that the man of sin should manifest himself in great signs and wonders. And thus we find it in the words of our text. The second beast, the false prophet, the power of this false philosophy and science and religion, shall do things which will astonish the world and which will cause all men to flock to him, to listen to his prophecy, and to worship the beast.
What shall this power do? There are interpreters who take it all in the literal sense of the word and who claim that this second beast represents a person who will actually perform miracles. We are not inclined that way. All that is necessary is to assume that this great power will do things that will corroborate his teachings, and thus establish the universal kingdom. He will not only talk, but he will show that he can do things in harmony with the message he brings. He will apply his science and philosophy and show that man is extremely powerful. He will bring fire from heaven. Why not? Through the power of electricity man has already done great things. In the future he may actually be able to extract the fire from the clouds of heaven and bring it down in the sight of all men. He will provide men with all the commodities and all the conveniences and pleasures modern science can invent, so that they can fly through the air without danger, speak with their fellow men in the remotest corner of this great kingdom without trouble, enter into the bowels of the earth and plow through the depth of the sea. It is that false philosophy that will discover all the powers of creation and bring them into use, so that all men shall wonder at the great things it does. And wondering at its action, they shall follow him and believe his message and obey his command.
This is evidently the sole, ultimate purpose of these signs and wonders, that men may believe and follow the beast. For we read in the words of our text that by these he so deceives men that they make an image of the beast. Notice that this false prophet does not make the image, but that under his influence, as he speaks for the beast and performs signs and wonders in his name, men make such an image. This image is, of course, a representation of the beast itself, so that whosoever worships the image worships the beast, and he who worships the beast worships the dragon.
Exactly of what this image shall consist we do not know at present. The idea of an image through which the world-power is worshipped is nothing strange. The emperors of the Roman Empire had such images made, through which they were worshipped as gods. And to come to more recent times, in the French Revolution we well know how images of the great leaders of that revolution were made and worshipped, how men paid religious worship to the images of liberty, equality, and fraternity that were made, and how in the Notre Dame of Paris the goddess of reason was actually worshipped by the great of France. And therefore, there would be nothing strange if in these latter days there would be once more such idol-worship in the literal sense of the word. At all events, some sign, some ensign, some device, representing this universal world-power will be conceived of and made and distributed all through the dominion of Antichrist, that they may pay divine honor to it and worship the beast. Before that emblem of the universal world-power all men shall bow down.
Still greater things this false prophet is allowed to perform. He gives to that image a spirit, a breath of life. Also this cannot be definitely explained with a view to its realization. How this universal idol shall speak, I know not. But that is of minor importance. We know the purpose of it all. The text tells us that this image is given a breath of life in order that it may speak and that those who do not worship the image may be killed. There are still saints of the Most High on earth; the remnant of the seed of the woman is still there. They are not yet taken to heaven. And they, of course, refuse to go along with all this beautiful and worldwide movement. They refuse to adopt the philosophy of the second beast. They refuse to wonder at its great signs. They refuse to adopt its religion. They refuse to worship the beast and the dragon. And therefore they cannot be tolerated. They must be discovered, so that this great universal kingdom may be rid of them. And therefore an image must be made, some universal ensign. And that universal ensign must be displayed everywhere. Wherever you turn you can see it in this kingdom of the Antichrist, and all humbly bow down before it or in some way pay it divine honor. But the saints of the Most High refuse to worship the idol. And thus it speaks. The universal insignia is the means through which it becomes evident who do not worship the beast, so that they may be killed. Distinction, separation, must now be made between the seed of the woman and the followers and worshippers of the beast. And this universal idol must serve as the means through which the distinction is realized.
In close connection with this idea is the idea of the sign. When, by means of the image, distinction is made between the followers of the beast and those who refuse to worship him, the faithful followers receive a sign. Of little importance it is for us at present to determine exactly in what this sign shall consist. It may be that the kingdom shall literally provide for some brand or badge, or button which the beast's faithful followers shall be allowed to wear and with which they shall be allowed to appear in modern society. In our age of badges and buttons this idea is not farfetched. But it also may be that this is all symbolism, to denote that there shall be a visible difference in the manifestation of the followers of the beast and the followers of Christ.
Certain it is that the difference shall be there and that the difference shall be very plain. The false prophet, the power of false science and philosophy and religion, shall see to it that the distinction is very public and evident to all, so that only his followers may share in the blessings of this great kingdom. Just as only the followers of Christ, baptized in His name and confessing Him faithfully, shall share in the blessings of the kingdom Christ will establish, so also the followers of the beast only shall reap the benefits of this universal world-kingdom. The rest, who do not wear the mark of the beast, shall be excluded, shall be boycotted in every respect. They shall not be able to buy or to sell. Of course, all things are under the control of the first beast, of this great and universal world-power. The very necessities of life are in his power. And he can surely allow or prevent buying and selling according to his good pleasure. The saints of Christ, who do not worship the image, who refuse to receive the mark of the beast, shall not be able to do business, shall not be able to live along with that great society, shall not be able to buy the necessities of life. They shall be outcasts, mocked at, held in derision, thrust aside, ousted from society, and killed. Those shall be terrible days. More terrible shall they be than any form of persecution the children of God have ever experienced. There shall be no place for them on earth. They shall be left without a helper on earth. So terrible shall those days be that, in the first place, many shall fall who appeared to be children of the Most High, and that, in the second place, the very elect would not be able to resist, were it not for the fact that the days are shortened.
The Number Of The Beast
Finally, we must still discuss the name of this great beast which all its worshippers bear on their foreheads or in their right hand. We read: "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six."
Many and varied are the interpretations given of this number; and we shall not tire your attention by enumerating them all. A very favorite interpretation is that which is given by an old church father, Irenaeus, and accepted by many of our own time. The interpretation is as follows. The letters of the Greek alphabet were used as numbers. If this is taken as the basis of the interpretation, we find that the letters in the word Lateinos, or Latin, together give us the number 666. And therefore the name of the beast as it is spelled by this number is "Latin," and denotes the kingdom of the Latins, or of the Roman Empire. But even this interpretation we cannot possibly accept as true. For, in the first place, however ingenious it may be, it is nevertheless more or less arbitrary. On this basis I can also construe other names which are just as suitable, which also amount to the number 666, but which simply are formed by a different arrangement of the same letters. But, in the second place, notice that our text does not say, "Here is a riddle; let him that is bright solve it," but plainly states: "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast." And therefore we must have something different. And, in the third place, we should not lose sight of the fact that the numbers in Revelation have symbolical significance and that they stand also in this case for a higher spiritual reality.
Let us then notice, in the first place, that the mark of the beast, the number of his name, the number of the beast, and the name of the beast all denote identically the same thing. The beast has a name. And the name in Scripture always denotes character and being. The name of this beast has been impressed upon his followers, so that also they may be distinguished as his subjects. And that name is the same as is expressed in the number Six hundred sixty-six. Now what is the meaning of this number?
Six is the number of the creature in all its fulness. In six days God created the world; and in six days creation was completed. The fulness of creation has come to realization in six days. But the full week is not expressed in the six, but in the number seven. The seventh day is the day of consecration and adoration of God, on which the creature was to lift himself from the sphere of the mundane and consecrate himself to the Creator. On the seventh day man was to bring the glory of all God's work to Him. It was hallowed. But the seven is lacking in the six. And therefore it speaks of the fulness of creation and all the powers of creation, but without God and without the service and glory of God. The world with all its fulness, with all its powers, but without God, under the influence of sin, - that is the symbolism of the number six. Ten, as we have had occasion to notice more than once, is the number that denotes a complete measure of anything according to the decree of God, whether it be a measure of time, or power, or development, or anything else. Now notice that Six hundred sixty-six is six, plus ten times six, plus ten times ten times six. Ten times six would denote the world and all its fulness, without God, developed according to the measure of God's plan. And ten times ten times six denotes that same development in the highest degree, coming to its fullest consummation.
The idea, therefore, is not so difficult. God has created a world, in order that this world should glorify Him and be consecrated to Him. But that world tore itself loose from Him, refused to glorify Him; and man now developed the kingdom of the world without God. God allows that kingdom of the world to develop to its full extent. Although man has fallen away from Him, He nevertheless allows him to exercise dominion over the earthly creation and to bring to light all the hidden powers and talents of creation to their fullest degree. And that kingdom we have in this antichristian beast. These beasts represent the highest development of the sovereignty of man apart from God, developing all the powers of creation without God and under the devil. It is the climax of development of the Man of Sin. It is the kingdom of man, of the creature, without God, without the seven. And therefore his number is Six hundred sixty-six, the number of man indeed.
Such, I feel persuaded, is the meaning of this chapter.
If we have spiritual understanding, we must count the number of the beast. You may see him rise before your very eyes in the world of today. Hence, we must watch and pray, that we may not fall into temptation. We must be faithful unto the end. But it is not our calling to resist the coming of the beast: for that is impossible. You cannot prevent his coming. But what we must do is watch. Here is the patience of the saints. Here is wisdom. We must know how he will come, that we may recognize his coming and be faithful even unto the end. God grant that we may be found watching in that day, so that we may not be allured by all the beauty and fascination and Christian appearance and strength and stability of that world-kingdom and by the signs and wonders of the false prophet, but that we may remain faithful even unto the very end, so that no one may take our crown.