The beast rises out of the sea, representing a persecuting power – a demonised state – its description is hideous, yet people choose to worship it instead of the loving creator and Father God. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, in Daniel 3, experienced this kind of state. While western democracies don’t insist on literal worship, citizens are tempted to look at the state as if it were a Messiah. (Although as I write this Theresa May is facing a vote of no-confidence and most people are pretty disillusioned with the political mess of attempting to Brexit!)
Satan is the arch counterfeiter. The beast is a counterfeit Christ. Let us do a comparison:
- Image of Satan, who brought him forth (13:1)
- Ten crowns
- Blasphemous names written on him
- Given power, throne and authority by Satan (13:2)
- Healed fatal wound, counterfeiting Christ’s resurrection. A principle attraction
- Worshipped along with the dragon
- Attracts worship of the whole world (13:3)
- Utters blasphemies
- Wars against the saints.
- The exact image of God, begotten by the Father (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 2:7)
- Many Crowns (19:12)
- Worthy names
- Power (5:2-13), throne (3:21) authority (12:10) from the Father
- Genuine resurrection, that is the key to effective evangelism
- Christians worship the Father and the Son (John 5:23)
- Jesus is worshipped universally
- Christ praises God (Hebrews 2:12)
- Wars against the beast.
Satan tries to counterfeit the Father. He engages in a mock creation, bringing forth his image out of the chaotic waters.
The beast’s ten horns imitate those of the dragon, representing his power. Seven heads represent multiple manifestations. Behind the beast is the dragon (Satan) who energises and endorses him. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil spiritual forces behind them. Thankfully the beast’s power is limited in duration – that 42 months or three and a half years – representing half of time.
Worship of the beast is commanded and, when they refuse, Christians are martyred. This has already happened in the early church and still continues today – with the martyrdom of Christians by ISIS well documented. The beast wants allegiance from every tribe, people, language and nation (v.7) but ultimately that belongs to Christ! The beast is an upfront persecutor.
The false prophet is the second beast, in v.11f, from the earth. Again he counterfeits the Holy Spirit. But he is more subtle – it’s more deceit than up front attack. He has two horns like a lamb, counterfeiting Christ again.
What is the mark of the beast? Firstly it is Anti-Shema!*- In Deuteronomy 6, Jews were commanded to put the law on their foreheads and wrists, symbolically showing their allegiance to Yahweh. The Beast counterfeits this with his mark!
Divine completeness is symbolised by the number seven – 777 – and so 666 falls short of that. In the Greek and Hebrew alphabet, letters had a number value and Jews and pagans often played number games with letters. So Jesus in Greek has the value 888, whereas the beast has 666. Roman emperors like Nero and Domitian had the number 666 and over history many tyrannical figures had names whose number is 666 – I even found a website claiming Donald Trump’s Germanic original surname makes him 666 too. The reality is that 666 is man’s number and it represents man’s kingdoms that end up against God. Most of these speculations miss the point.
The world is against God; stay faithful and true in the power of the Spirit and stop panicking about barcodes and chips!
*The Shema is an affirmation of God’s singularity and kingship – ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one.