Beware; the devil is in the religion business: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." (2 Cor. 11:13-14) Last month we looked at the beast of the sea (the Antichrist) and this month we will look at his partner in crime, the beast out of the earth, later called the false prophet (Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). As we'll see, the false prophet deceives the world's apostate religious system into serving the purposes of Antichrist and commands everyone, with the threat of death, to worship the Antichrist as God. (The Antichrist later destroys this apostate religious system; see the harlot in Rev.17). The timing of this seems to be right at the midpoint of the tribulation as the false prophet works with the Antichrist in the first 3½ years to bring a false peace into a world in chaos. The apostate church unites with other religions in the name of world peace and unity as the Antichrist builds his empire of the ten-nation confederacy that will rule the world for the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation period. Throughout the history of the world as seen in the Bible and world history man has always united political/military power with religious power. Pharaoh had his gods and magicians; Balak the king hired a false prophet Balaam to curse Israel; Ahab and Jezebel had Baal and Ashtoreth; the Caesars declared they were divine; Popes exercised political power; Hitler had his mediums and apostate church; and so on. Man is incurably religious but hates the one true God because they want to be in control and use religion for their own worldly purposes versus submit to God's righteous laws for His good and eternal purposes. Let's take a close look at the false prophet. Again, I will follow an outline used by John MacArthur for these verses about the false prophet: his person, his power, his program and ultimately his punishment (along with Antichrist).
HIS PERSON -"Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon." First of all this is a person and not just a religious system as some have said. God does not cast systems into the lake of fire, only demons and unrepentant man. I think the description of him "coming out of the earth" means just that, that he is a man (yet inspired by Satan) that comes from the world system (the earth). His name, false prophet, signifies both that his work is religious and false. He appears as a harmless, gentle lamb (a counterfeit of Jesus, Lamb of God) but his words are inspired by Satan (the dragon). He is the ultimate "wolf in sheep's clothing" (Matt 7:13). He will be an eloquent and powerful preacher and persuade millions to unite in a false religious system. ["A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand," and the final kingdom of Satan will not be divided against itself; it will unite in a final form both politics and religion in Satan's last effort to establish his kingdom on earth and prevent the Lord Jesus Christ from setting up His own." John MacArthur] Fallen man still believes he can use political and religious power, be his own savior, and save the world – the Age of Aquarius, the evolution of man, new age, etc. As it's said, how is that working for you? Read the news.
HIS POWER – "He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth." This person can make things happen; "made the earth and its inhabitants (unsaved people) worship" Antichrist. He has charismatic power and even supernatural power. As God gave power to many of His prophets to authenticate that they spoke for Him, so Satan will be allowed to give demonic power to the false prophet. Elijah and the two witnesses could call down fire from heaven; likewise the false prophet. He may even be given credit for healing the fatal wound of Antichrist if this refers to a counterfeit resurrection of a person and not the revival of the Roman Empire. As we see in Exodus, Pharaoh's magicians could fabricate supernatural power, and voodoo doctors can walk on hot coals and cause people to levitate. Some Christian leaders believe that some of the "genuine" UFO encounters are with demons. The power is one thing but the purpose is another: "he deceived the inhabitants of the earth." God worked through His prophets to reveal truth and lead people to Him, and Satan works through his prophet to deceive with lies and separate people from God forever.
HIS PROGRAM – "He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666." Fallen man is into image versus substance, from Adam and Eve covering up in the garden, to kings having idols built of themselves to be worshiped, to high-tech self-promotion today on the internet and TV. How different the Antichrist will be from the false image he projects. ["The broader an image is spread the thinner it becomes; anyone known to millions is barely known at all. Why are we made so hungry to be known, yet are so unknowable? We are made for connection; projection is a poor second." Janie Cheaney speaking of Michael Jackson in World Magazine, Aug. 2009] "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7)
In the Old Testament God says many times that idols can't speak (Psalm 135:15-18) and yet this one seems to speak. Steve Griffith notes that it is possibly demons speaking through this idol as they are seen speaking through people in Scripture (e.g., Acts 16:16-18). ["Now we don't know how that's going to work, but it isn't hard to imagine that worldwide television will keep that image in everybody's home all the time. Speeches will come off of this image. People will be staring at this image, watching the phenomenon of its movement and its speech and they will be brought to their knees in worshiping this image, the image that is the reflection of the Antichrist." John MacArthur]
"And he forced everyone" – rich and poor, etc. to receive the "mark of the beast" as it has come to be known. Without this mark a person cannot survive unless God provides supernaturally and/or through His people which he has protected during the Tribulation. This He does and many Jews and Gentiles survive because the millennial kingdom will have people from every tribe tongue and nation. But many will die for their faith rather than worship the beast. Commentators differ on what the mark may be or what the number 666 means. Some think it will be a bar code to enable a cashless society. We already see this being done with pets. The number 666 may simply signify the number of man (created on the sixth day) and contrast to the number seven for God, which means completion or perfection (God finished His work on the seventh day). If so, we have a symbol of man to the third power – a symbol of man's total imperfection, meaning all mankind needs a Savior. Hal Lindsey thinks it means man trying to make himself God since the Trinity (three) is another symbol of God.
HIS PUNISHMENT – "But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur." (Rev. 19:20) The deceiver of all deceivers deceived himself. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Gal. 6:7) False prophets are everywhere today; on TV, in churches, writing books, on the internet (the name – world-wide web should make us a little leery about what we read on the web). Our best defense and offense against false prophets is God's truth – the Bible. "But solid food (knowing the "meat" of God's Word) is for the mature, who because of practice (knowing and obeying God's Word) have their senses trained to discern good and evil." (Heb. 5:14)
Merry Christmas! The One Who came on Christmas Day is coming again. "Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty." "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (Revelation 1:8; 22:12)
Until He comes, Len and Kristen
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