Have you ever fallen for a scam?
Chapter 13 is a favorite of Adventist evangelists because of its power to convince people of the historical accuracy of prophecy and the abhorrent record of the church-state power of Rome. But there is much more to this chapter, especially in regards to the impersonation of Christ in the last days and the efficacy of Satan’s counterfeit in the war for peoples’ allegiance.
The beast out of the sea is the first of the Dragon’s two allies. This beast looks just like the dragon, suggesting it’s a close relative. Because of the beast’s makeup of animals from Daniel 7, and similar characteristics to the little horn, it’s natural to suggest this beast is the church-state power of Rome during the dark ages. However, it has a last-day revival, and will give its power to another who carries out the final steps of this war.
There are many parallels between this beast and Jesus Christ, but in a way that shows the beast is a parody or impersonation of Christ.
- Both have 3.5 year “ministry”
- Both receive a fatal wound (death)
- Both have that wound healed (resurrection)
- Both are called “blasphemers”
- Both receive a throne from their “father”
- Both point back to the one who sent them
This beast is an attempt to replicate Christ on earth. And while many Adventists focus on the Vatican and Rome because of this Beast, perhaps it would behoove the church to keep reading in Revelation and be more concerned with the beast out of the earth, the one who actually makes life difficult at the end.
Why does Satan think his impersonation of Christ might actually work? What opens people up to being deceived, and how might God’s people prevent the “accuser” from winning our allegiance?
The Dragon’s second ally comes out of the earth, is lamb-like but inherently dragonish. If the beast out of the sea was an impersonation of Christ, this beast is false Holy Spirit. It does signs and miracles, and even calls fire down from heaven (recalling Acts and Pentecost), points people back to the first beast (as the Spirit teaches about Christ and His words), and gives “breath” to the image of the beast, the same word for “Spirit”. This beast gives a mark just like the Holy Spirit seals God’s people (see 2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13, 4:30). Thus we see a false trinity arrayed against God’s people, attempting to deceive those who dwell on the earth, and to gain the homage and worship that are due to God alone.
While calling fire down from heaven has been God’s specialty in the past (see Mount Carmel and Elijah against the prophets of Baal, and the Pentecost experience), this time, God’s allies are able to pull off the miraculous signs and wonders. Here is a significant warning to God’s people: you cannot trust your senses! What you see, taste, hear, feel and touch can be manipulated; your senses aren’t trustworthy guides of the power behind the sign. John and Paul exhort us to “test the Spirits to see if they are of God.” (1 Joh. 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:19-22)
Historicist scholars have suggested, agreeing with Ellen White’s interpretation, that this beast will find fulfillment in the United States when it sets up an image to the sea-beast, and require homage through a false sign of allegiance related to God’s law (usually considered a false day-of-rest). To this point, the U.S. has not done this. However, with the eroding of constitutionally-recognized individual rights (in favor of societal safety/political conformity), more centralized governmental power over the last several decades (especially since 9-11), and an increase in political polarizing and in-fighting, such a fulfillment isn’t near as unlikely as it might have seemed even 30 years ago.
What are the differences between this beast’s character and that of the Divine Trinity? How does this beast act in ways that are not at all like the God of heaven?
How can people know the difference between the counterfeit and the true?
The Image of the beast recalls Daniel 3 and the image there that was 66 cubits wide and 6 cubits high. There was a death decree for failure to comply, and the three Hebrew servants of God were marked by their refusal to bow. It was clear who were God’s and who were not. The “mark of the beast” clearly is related to man, since the 6th day is the day of humans’ creation. Worshipping that which is man-made, as Daniel 3 reiterates over and over (the image that Nebuchadnezzar “set up”), is always a false substitute for worshipping the Creator and Redeemer, especially when enforced by a death decree!