What does the Bible say about the False Prophet in the book of Revelation?
by David Jeremiah
A principle of reading and interpreting the prophetic portions of the Bible is that every prophetic event casts its shadow. That means, while the event itself happens in a moment of time, there are shadows of that event which touch those who live prior to the event. For example, the seven-year period known as the Tribulation will officially begin in a single moment with the Rapture of the Church. While the Church will not be on earth to experience the difficult days of the Tribulation, the storm clouds of that period will gather long before it actually begins. The discerning believer will be aware of and watching for the shadows of future prophetic events.
The events we study in this article are found in Revelation 13, events which occur around the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation period. Therefore, at any given moment, believers could be within three to four years of the events of Revelation 13 taking place. If the Rapture occurred tomorrow, the events of Revelation 13 would happen three to four years later. Given the short time frame, it is likely that the Church will witness predecessor events which will lead up to the actual events of Revelation 13.
For example, we will read in this article about a mark which the Antichrist will force all to use if they want to be able to buy or sell during the Great Tribulation (the last half of the seven years). While the ability to control commerce internationally might have seemed far-fetched to our ancestors, we know it is entirely possible today. With children being required to obtain Social Security numbers prior to entering school, and with the widespread use of check/debit cards for transactions, systems are in place for a cashless society. In such a society, computers could easily grant or deny commercial access based on approval or the lack thereof. The Internet has brought the issue of personal privacy to the fore of discussions. The average individual is discovering that vast amounts of personal information about him is already collected and in storage in computer databases. Centralized control of commerce would probably be easier to implement than any of us recognize.
In the first 10 verses of Revelation 13 John saw a beast rising out of the sea of humanity—a composite of the three wild animals seen by Daniel in his vision (Daniel 7). They represented four world kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Three of the beasts are mentioned in Revelation 13:2, but the fourth is the composite—stronger and more fierce than any of the previous three. It is an ongoing form of the ancient Roman Empire. As John continued to look he saw a second beast, this one rising up out of the earth.
THE DESCRIPTION OF THE SECOND BEAST (13:11-13)
With the arrival of the second beast, an unholy trinity is completed. Just as the true God exists as a trinity, so does the counterfeit god. The two trinities compare with each other as follows:
The second beast is the False Prophet whose task it is to point people to the Antichrist, just as the Holy Spirit points people toward Jesus Christ. Revelation 19:20 links the False Prophet with the Antichrist; they work together and ultimately will perish together. In Revelation 13:11 we are told he looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon. Satan causes his False Prophet to appear like a meek and gentle lamb when in reality he has the heart of a destroyer. Jesus Himself said to beware of false prophets who "come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15). This False Prophet is the epitome of every false prophet who has ever lived.
The Antichrist and the False Prophet are paired significantly: The former's focus is politics while the latter's emphasis is religion. In the Tribulation, with the absence of true religion, a false religion will be necessary to solidify the political power of the Antichrist. Wherever you have a vacuum of true religion, political power will marry itself to false religion to give itself a mark of acceptability. Even Communism has a religion called atheism or materialism. It grieves me when I hear someone say, "one religion is as good as another," for I know that all that person has seen is false religion.
So during the Great Tribulation, Satan will use religion to unite the world under the leadership of the Antichrist.
The False Prophet will have the power to perform great miracles. Imagine the astonishment of all on earth as great streaks of fire blaze across the sky. Perhaps it will be a part of a gigantic celebration for the Antichrist. This spectacular show may be to center attention on Jerusalem, where the image of the beast will be exhibited.
Escape the Coming Night
The False Prophet, the second beast of Revelation 13, will be the religious leader who will point people toward the Antichrist. He will be like many false prophets of our own day—dispensing what people want to hear instead of the truth they need to hear. And he will attract large crowds--false prophets usually do. But in a day of trouble like the Great Tribulation, the lamb-like preacher the people listen to will suddenly begin to manifest the deeds of a ravenous wolf.
THE DEEDS OF THE SECOND BEAST (13:13)
The False Prophet will have the power to counterfeit the miracles of God, such as calling down fire from heaven. Calling down fire from heaven was associated with the power of God in the Old Testament (Genesis 19:24; Leviticus 10:1-2; 1 Kings 18:38; and in Revelation 11:3-6). Whatever God does, Satan is the master counterfeiter. Since God often revealed Himself by fire, the False Prophet uses fire to validate his own works.
THE DECEPTION OF THE SECOND BEAST (13:14-15)
The False Prophet deceives the people into building an image which can be used as a focal point for worship of the Antichrist. I believe this image will be set up in the city of Jerusalem as a counterfeit to the temple of God. We aren't told what the image will be, but I believe it will be a large structure, not just an effigy on a coin or some similar symbol. I believe it will become a gathering place for those coming to worship the Beast.
The False Prophet's powers are not slight—he actually is able to make the image speak. Satan cannot give life; i.e., the image doesn't come alive. It only appears to be alive as a result of being able to speak. Some say it is ventriloquism; others say it will be a computer chip which speaks much as our cars and computers talk to us today. However he does it, the False Prophet makes the image seem to be alive. I can imagine people gathering at this location every day to hear what the image has to say. The media will carry the content of the image's speeches each day in the news; it will become a focal point of every person's day. I believe this image is that "abomination of desolation" Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:15. When this image is set up in Jerusalem, the disciples of Jesus will know that the Great Tribulation is about to begin. He then goes on to say that the disciples should flee Jerusalem because things are about to get much worse than they ever have before. The image of the Beast is a signal for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
THE DEMAND OF THE SECOND BEAST (13:16-18)
The mark which the Beast causes everyone to receive on their hand or their forehead is yet another attempt at counterfeiting. Remember that in Revelation 7:3 the Lord caused a mark to be put on the foreheads of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (see also Revelation 14:1). What God does, Satan imitates by way of counterfeiting.
The mark (Greek charagma) refers to the Roman use of a seal or mark connected with the emperor which conveyed official sanction. So the Beast will use a charagma to identify those who are loyal to him. Those without the mark will be deemed traitors and boycotted by the commercial system the Beast controls. Those without the mark will die from exposure or starvation or illness as a result of not being able to purchase what they need. I vaguely remember the days of rationing during World War II when money wasn't enough to buy certain items. You had to have a government issued ration card because of the scarcity of some items. While that rationing was only temporary to help our country's war effort, under the Beast's reign it will be permanent. All the money in the world won't be enough to buy bread if you don't have the mark of the Beast.
We tend to think that only those without the mark will suffer—but those with the mark will suffer as well (see Revelation 14:9-11). People will face a choice: Reject the mark and suffer at the hands of the Beast; accept the mark and suffer at the hands of God. The choice will be to decide which is worse—to suffer the temporary wrath of the Beast but receive the eternal favor of God, or receive the temporary favor of the Beast and suffer the eternal wrath of God.
The most complex issue regarding the Beast and his mark is found in verse 18 where we are told that the number of the Beast is 666. Many fanciful observations have been made about this number. For instance, it first appears in the Bible in verse "18" which is 6+6+6. Goliath was six cubits tall, his spear's head weighed six shekels, and he had six pieces of armor. Nebuchadnezzar's statue in Daniel was 60 cubits tall, six cubits wide, and six musical instruments summoned the worshipers. These and similar observations are just that—observations. They tell us nothing about the meaning of the number of the Beast. No one knows exactly what 666 means.
What is portrayed is a tremendous union in which capital and labor are both subject to the control and direction of one man. Anyone who is outside that vast combination will be ruthlessly boycotted; no one will work for him or employ him; no one will purchase his produce or sell goods to him; trade and commerce will close their doors to him. Bankruptcy and starvation face such a man.
Fred A. Talford
We can say that numbers in the Bible do have significance. Just as we have seen in earlier lessons that the number “seven” is associated with the completion or perfection of God's acts, so the number "six" is associated with man (created on the sixth day, must work for six out of seven days, etc.). To triple that number (666) could simply be a way to indicate the Beast is the ultimate in human ingenuity—the best man can be apart from God. It is interesting that six will always fall short of seven. Man will always, even at his best, fall short of the perfection of God. Whatever the number 666 means, and however the mark of the Beast will be configured and applied to humans during the Great Tribulation, it will mean at least this: The evidence of man's attempt to glorify, even deify himself, as a final act of rebellion against God. Man's kingdom, instead of God's kingdom, will dominate the Great Tribulation.
I read a story once about Johann Sebastian Bach, the great German composer. He apparently was a very sound sleeper and difficult to wake up. His children discovered that the best way to waken him was to go to the piano and play a few measures of some composition but leave off the very last note or chord. Their father would instantly arise and go to the piano and strike the final chord. The one thing he could not tolerate was the incompleteness of a piece of music. It had to be brought to its proper conclusion. The great preacher, Donald Grey Barnhouse, from whom I heard that story, said he tried it in his own home. Playing "Silent Night" on the piano, he stopped just shy of the final note—then listened. Upstairs he heard his son trying to find that last note on his harmonica. Another of his children was singing the last line and adding the final note. Someone else called out, "Did you do that on purpose?"
"Six," especially "666,” reminds us that something is missing—the end of the story has not yet been told. A man whose mark is "666" will arise on the world stage for a few short moments in the future and then be judged. Like a song without a final note, the Antichrist cannot bring history to its final closure. Only the true God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, can do that. He is a "Perfect Seven," as are all who find refuge in Him for eternity.
- With lines, match the members of the divine Trinity with the members of the unholy, Satanic trinity that tries to counterfeit the work of God:
|God the Father
||The False Prophet
|God the Son
|God the Holy Spirit
- How is the Antichrist coming back to life after being mortally wounded a counterfeit miracle similar to a divine miracle? (Revelation 13:3)
- Read Daniel 3:1-30.
- What did Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon set up in “the plain of Dura”? (verse 1)
- What became the law in Babylon concerning the image? (Verses 4-6)
- How did the people of Babylon respond to the law? (Verse 7)
- How did the three Hebrew young men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego respond to the law? (Verse 12)
- How does this story so far parallel that of Revelation 13:11-14?
- With what punishment did Nebuchadnezzar threaten the three, and how did they respond? (Verses 15-18)
- What was the result of their punishment? (Verses 25-27)
- How will believers during the Tribulation likely face a similar option as did the three in Babylon? (Revelation 13:15-17)
- What have you already learned in this study about believers during the Tribulation? Does God rescue them as He did the three in Babylon? (Revelation 6:9)
- How do you respond to the idea of being threatened for your faith? What would it take for you to resist submission to an ungodly edict?
- What did Paul do on a regular basis in his ministry? (2 Corinthians 12:12)
- What does the phrase “of an apostle” mean? What were the signs supposed to validate?
- How successful had some false apostles been at gaining authority among the churches? (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) Who was behind their false authority?
- Why is it not impossible to find people in awe of the False Prophet’s power during the Tribulation? (Revelation 13:13)
- How does James 1:16 serve as a timeless warning when it comes to displays of power?
Did You Know?
The idea that a government could assign a “mark” to the entire world’s people should not come as a surprise. For decades, Americans have not been able to make large purchases or investments without a Social Security number. And some legislators want to require that every American be required to purchase health insurance. A new technology known as Radio Frequency Identification (RFIC) is already being used to monitor the flow of goods and services, track farm animals, track passports, and monitor cars on toll roads. The technology consists of a tiny silicon chip that can be attached or implanted that responds to radio frequencies. They are so tiny that they have been attached to ants to study their movement. RFID chips are gaining increasing use in modern cultures for tracking commerce and allowing or disallowing activities.