Broadcasting now. Watch Live.

The False Prophet

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:11-18


Well, thank you all so much – I love those words, and they fit so well with the message of the Book of Revelation, where we return tonight. So, I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to Revelation 13 – I teased and told my wife that I spent this week with the False Prophet, and I did, but hopefully it will be for our advantage, as we watch this passage unfold.

You know, as you think about what's going to happen under the reign of Antichrist, it's difficult, in some ways, to imagine that it could come to pass – because, after all, for large numbers of people to collectively embrace an obviously bad idea, they have to be persuaded, often against their better judgment. Tragically, we have seen this happen on the stage of history on a number of occasions – in the case of the Third Reich, it was the job of the Ministry of Propaganda. Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, "The most brilliant propagandist's technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success." As you know, for that task, Hitler appointed Joseph Goebbels Minister of Information and Propaganda. In the year 1928, before all of the Nazi apparatus was in place, in a training seminar for Nazi party members, Goebbels said this to them. "To attract people, to win over people to that which I have realized as being true, that is called propaganda. Success is the important thing – propaganda is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches – the point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right; it is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths." Sadly, those words spoken in 1928 were fleshed out in the most grotesque ways in the years that followed in Nazi Germany.

So, Hitler had Goebbels – in the future, Antichrist will have the False Prophet; that's the extraordinarily gifted, evil man that we meet in our study of Revelation tonight. Now, just to remind you, we're studying Revelation 12-14[SR1] ; it's an interlude in the unfolding of the judgments that are part of the seals being broken, the trumpets being blown, and the seventh trumpet will issue forth in seven bowls of judgment. But right now, in chapters 12-14, we are in an interlude, and it's important to note kind of what unfolds in that interlude. These chapters describe events that will unfold throughout the seven-year tribulation, and in some cases, even go into eternity past and into eternity future.

Here's an outline – you have, in chapter 12, Satan's long war against God, His Messiah and His people. You have there a history of Satan's war against God, from the beginning of his fall until the end – we looked at it together. In chapter 13, you have a description of Satan's generals during one specific period of time, specifically his tribulation campaign, the seven years of tribulation. In the first ten verses of chapter 13, you have the Beast from the sea who is the false Christ, Antichrist, and then in chapter 13 verses 11-18, you have the Beast from the earth, who is the False Prophet – we'll look at him tonight. And thankfully, beginning next week, we get to see the visible hand of Christ in Satan's defeat in chapter 14 – the winning begins next week; come back, all right? But tonight, we need to look at this person that John saw in his vision that's described here – let's read it together, Revelation 13, beginning in verse 11.

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man, and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.

The point of these verses that we have just read together is this – during the future seven-year tribulation, Satan will raise up a counterfeit prophet to perform great signs, and through those signs, to cause the entire world to worship Antichrist as though he were God. Now, in the verses we just read, John gives us two primary descriptions of this future religious leader – first of all, we're going to learn about his person in verse 11 and the first part of verse 12, and then the rest of this passage is about his career – so, let's look at it together, let's see what the Holy Spirit intends for us to know, and for the future generation that will be alive during this time, to know about this person.

So, first of all, let's look at the person of the False Prophet. He begins in verse 11 by underscoring his beastly character – verse 11 says, "Then I saw another beast." It's spoken that way because the word beast is used of Antichrist back in chapter 11, verse 7, as well as in our chapter here – the Greek word for another refers to another of the same kind. By referring to this second key person in Antichrist's kingdom as a beast, John wants us to think of him as being also vicious, a wild beast, a kind of monster, one that savagely, ferociously, brutally destroys. But this beast is a man; just like Antichrist is clearly a person, this is clearly a person as we'll see, as this passage unfolds – the rest of this passage uses personal pronouns of him. And throughout the rest of Revelation, he's not called a beast again, but repeatedly, as we'll see, he's called the False Prophet in chapter 16, verse 13, in chapter 19, verse 20, and in chapter 20, verse 10. So, he is the False Prophet, who is a ravenous, destructive, vicious beast.

Secondly, we see his human and Satanic origins – he is a man, he is human, but he is inspired by something more than human. Verse 11 says this other beast was "coming up out of the earth." Just like he does with Antichrist, John here pictures this second person as suddenly arising from obscurity to fame, and he's described as "coming up out of the earth" – you remember Antichrist was described as "coming up out of the sea," and we saw that later he's described as "coming up out of the abyss,"[SR2] so it's a picture of the fact that he is a human being, but at some point in his life, Antichrist will be indwelt by a powerful, destructive demon. The same thing, apparently, is true with the False Prophet – this language makes it clear that he is empowered and animated by Satan and his demons. He is pictured as coming up from the earth, likely a picture of his coming from the flaming depths of the earth, another image of the abyss. But the fact that he is said to rise from the earth, rather than the sea, may – and we can't be sure of this – but it may picture him as coming across less terrifying and more winsome. So, he's human, but he is Satanically empowered, just like his boss.

Thirdly, we see his religious emphasis – verse 11 says, "and he had two horns like a lamb." The description here tells us he will be powerful – he is pictured as having two horns; we've talked before about horns in scripture picturing the idea of power – but he is not going to be as powerful as Antichrist, who has ten horns. We have already seen that he is referred to as the False Prophet, so you lay that False Prophet image over that of a lamb, and it's a very interesting picture – the fact that he is a False Prophet means that the focus of his efforts will be religious. That's interesting, when you think about what Daniel tells us; we've looked at this before, but Daniel tells us Antichrist will reject the religion of his fathers, he will reject the religion of his ancestors. Since he will come from either a continued or reconstituted version of the Roman Empire, according to Daniel 7, the religion of his ancestors will be either the pagan religions of ancient Rome, or more likely some form of Christianity, some form of apostate Christianity. And the way the tribulation unfolds during the first half, the first three-and-a-half years of that seven-year period, Antichrist will apparently have an alliance of convenience with existing false religious systems; we'll get there when we get to the first half of chapter 17. He will have an alliance of convenience with false religion that exists at that time – but at the midpoint of the tribulation, he will break that religious alliance and he will destroy all religion except the worship of himself. He will, as we've seen, set up an image of himself in the temple in Jerusalem, the abomination of desolation, and he will demand the worship of the world; there will be no other false religion except his, and he will persecute Jews and Christians who refuse to worship him.

And all of this religious plan will be executed by the False Prophet, as we'll see this passage unfold – but he takes a different tack; notice he's described "like a lamb." You see, Antichrist, as we saw in the first half of this chapter, he is a kind of proud, aggressive blasphemer against the God of heaven; he speaks outrageous things against God. But the False Prophet will present himself like a lamb – gentle, harmless, working for people's good. It reminds me of Jesus' words in Matthew 7:15, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." He will be like a lamb – the final False Prophet will be Satan's most powerful, persuasive, lying, deceiving spiritual fraud. Antichrist's focus will be military and political, but the False Prophet, his focus will be spiritual; he will be his chief henchman, his high priest, his religious leader, his minister of religious propaganda.

That brings us, fourthly, to his diabolical speech – verse 11 says, "and he spoke as a dragon." That's a very strange voice for a lamb. The dragon, Satan himself, was a deceiver from the beginning – John 8:44, our Lord says the devil "does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." And what does that look like, in an ongoing way? 2 Corinthians 11:14 – "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light," as a minister of truth, as a lamb interested in your spiritual well-being. In the time leading to the end, false teachers will proliferate – Matthew 24:11, Jesus says, "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many." Mark 13:22, "false Christs, false prophets will arise and will show signs and wonders in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect." So, there will be many of them, but there will be one, the final False Prophet, the greatest of them all – he will present himself as a harmless, gentle, gracious lamb, a wolf in sheep's clothing – but his mouth, we're told here, will be filled with the same religious deception and lies as Satan, his father. John MacArthur writes of the False Prophet, "He may well be the most eloquent, powerful, convincing speaker in human history, and his lofty oratory will persuade the world to worship Antichrist." John Phillips, in his commentary on Revelation, tries to imagine what that might be like – obviously, he's trying to create that picture for us; listen to what he writes.

The dynamic appeal of the False Prophet will lie in his skill in combining political expediency with religious passion. His arguments will be subtle, convincing and appealing. His oratory will be hypnotic, for he will be able to move the masses to tears, or to whip them into a frenzy. He will control the communication and media of the world and will skillfully organize mass publicity to promote his ends. He will manage the truth with guile beyond words, bending it, twisting it, and distorting it. He will mold world thought and shape human opinion like so much potter's clay.

I think that's a pretty decent speculation of what he will be like. This is his speech – it is lit with the fire of hell; he speaks as if Satan himself was speaking.

That brings us, fifthly, to his unholy alliance. His unholy alliance – verse 12, "He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence." Satan, as we've seen, is the one who empowers and delegates authority to Antichrist, and here, we learn that Antichrist, in turn, will delegate his authority to this second beast. "In his presence" implies that the False Prophet carries out his activities under the authority of Antichrist. It's bizarre, when you think about it – I mean, Satan has always been a second-rate imitator, and what you see in this passage is that he will create his own unholy trinity. Satan will seek to usurp the role of the Father, Antichrist, the role of the Son, and the False Prophet will seek to play the role of the Holy Spirit, combining together to direct worship from the one true God to Satan himself. That's the person of the False Prophet.

Now, John goes on, in the rest of the passage, to unfold a second description of this future powerful person – let's consider, secondly, the career of the False Prophet. This begins in the middle of verse 12 and runs down to verse 18, the career of the False Prophet. First of all, we're told his ultimate mission in verse 12. "And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast." "The earth and those who dwell in it" is a Hebrew figure of speech; it's a way of saying the entire world – the False Prophet will make the world worship Antichrist. Notice he's not going to attempt to direct attention to himself; his primary role in this unholy alliance is to cause the entire world to worship and to submit to Antichrist. It's a parody – just as the role of the Holy Spirit is to direct worship toward Jesus Christ, in his devilish parody, the False Prophet will seek to direct worship to this false Christ; that's his ultimate mission.

How can he accomplish that? Well, notice his chief argument – verse 12 says "the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed." You see, the False Prophet's greatest tool, his chief argument in promoting and demanding the world's worship of Antichrist will be the apparent resurrection of Antichrist after he receives a deadly wound. We studied it together, but look back at chapter 13, verse 3. "I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed, and the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast." As we saw later in this passage, this is talking about the apparent death and the apparent resurrection of Antichrist himself; this will be the argument the False Prophet will be able to use. Again, just as the Holy Spirit uses the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an argument for people to believe in and worship Him, the False Prophet will continue his devilish parody by doing the same thing with Antichrist's supposed resurrection.

Thirdly, we come to his prophetic credentials – verse 13 says, "he performs great signs." It's interesting that in his gospel, John uses this expression for the miracles of Jesus Christ – however, the same expression is used of signs performed by false teachers and deceivers throughout the scripture as well. For example, you remember back in the book of Exodus, God allowed Moses to perform signs to authenticate him as God's messenger, in Exodus 4 – but Pharaoh's magicians, you remember, performed their own apparent miracles in response to the first couple of miracles that Moses performed. Moses later warned of future false prophets who would claim to work miracles – we'll come back to Deuteronomy 13 – but he said beware, there are going to be guys showing up with a message, and they will work what appear to be miracles. In the Olivet discourse, Jesus warned Christians living at the end of history of this danger, in Matthew 24:24, He said "false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." These will be convincing, powerful, great signs. In the New Testament era, false prophets and teachers often used magic arts to seek to authenticate themselves – you see that again and again in the Book of Acts – and what we're seeing here in Revelation is that in the future, the final False Prophet will be a tool of Satan and Antichrist, to deceive and mislead humanity, and to accomplish that, he will seek to authenticate himself as a prophet by great signs, by working supposed miracles. Look at 2 Thessalonians 2:8 – it talks about Antichrist coming. "Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming" – don't you love that? I just love that. Let me read it again. "That lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth" – in other words, He will simply speak, and Antichrist is done – "and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming, that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan" – notice this – "with all power and signs and false wonders."[SR3] This is what's coming, this is the work of the False Prophet, working great signs to convince people that the Antichrist is worthy of their worship.

Now, the question often comes up, will these be real miracles, or will they be simple trickery and sleight of hand? Well, 2 Thessalonians 2:9 seems to imply that they are false, they are pretense – but we just can't know for sure, it's also possible they will be real miracles. In fact, it's interesting to read the commentaries – a lot of men that we respect are on both sides of this issue; we just can't be sure. You say, well, how would it be possible for the False Prophet to do miracles? Well, remember, God, under His own authority, grants Satan power to do certain things – read the first couple of chapters of Job, and he is able to bring a great wind that destroys the house of Job's kids – so, Satan has that power. And notice verse 14, it says, "it was given him to perform" – that's what we've learned again and again in Revelation is the divine passive. God may give the False Prophet power to work real miracles; that's what the next expression seems to imply. Notice verse 13 – he works "great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men." John uses the present tense verb here, indicating the False Prophet will repeatedly call down fire from heaven. Why is that important? Because calling down fire from heaven has consistently been a sign of the true God and God's true prophet – you remember Elijah was allowed to do this in 1 Kings 18. In Revelation 20:9, we read this, "And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them." This is also apparently what the two witnesses from God during the tribulation are allowed to do – you remember back in chapter 11, verse 5? "If anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies" – the idea there probably wasn't that fire comes out of their mouths, but rather by their words they have the power, like Elijah, to call down fire from heaven on their enemies. The False Prophet will do the same thing to deceive, and to authenticate himself as God's real messenger, and he will perform these signs as his prophetic credentials – notice what it says – "in the presence of men." He will do this repeatedly, and he will do it publicly, in open, dramatic displays.

That brings us to his great deception, in verses 14-15. Notice verse 14, "And he deceives" – in the original, that's the present tense, and the idea is, the deception works; he is deceiving, in an ongoing way, "those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given to him to perform in the presence of the beast." The deception works. Specifically, notice "he deceives those who dwell on the earth" – now, as we've seen, this expression, those who dwell on the earth, is a semi-technical term in Revelation, as describing those who are unregenerate mankind alive at that time.

The question I have to ask, and if you're a thinking person, you have to ask, is, how does this happen – how is the entire world deceived by this guy, these two men? Why will humanity be deceived? I contemplated that, and I just wanted to give you a little list because this explains it, this is how it happens. First of all, because of the blinding work of Satan – 2 Corinthians 4:4, "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." This is always Satan's mission – the people around you who don't believe, Satan has blinded their minds to what is clear and obvious.

Secondly, they'll believe it because of their rebellion against God and His gospel. 2 Thessalonians 2:10 – just the next verse from the one we read in 2 Thessalonians a moment ago, it says this, "with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish" – and here's why they'll be deceived, listen to this – "because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." They will believe the lie because of their willful rebellion against God and His gospel – we see that today, right? I mean, why does any rational person believe in evolution? It's because they don't like the concept of creator, implies owner, implies Lord, so let's come up with another idea. So, in their rebellion against God, they will believe a lie.

Thirdly, they will believe it because of the persuasiveness of the False Prophet – verse 14 of our text says, "because of the signs which it was given him to perform." He will be convincing; he will be compelling. We've all watched the recordings of the speeches given by Hitler and his henchmen as massive crowds of Germans gathered in Nazi Germany, and we watch them be spellbound, and you just scratch your head in wonder – well, they were nothing compared to the persuasiveness of the False Prophet.

Number four, in the ultimate sense, people will be deceived because of divine judgment – 2 Thessalonians goes on to say, in verses 11-12, "God will send them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness." Can I just stop there a moment and say, if you're here tonight and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, you need to understand that God is patient, but He is not endlessly patient. Listen to that again. "God will send upon them a deluding influence, so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness." Ultimately, the deception is because of God's divine judgment.

Now, again, I want you to notice in our text, the False Prophet will perform these signs in the presence of the beast; that is, he will perform these signs with Antichrist himself present, in order to convince people of both his own power and authority, and that of Antichrist. But their joint appearance will also serve as an opportunity to demand that the people of Earth construct a visible display of their allegiance to their rescuer, to Antichrist. Look at verse 14, "telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life." You remember, in the Book of Daniel, Daniel 3, Satan prompted Nebuchadnezzar to construct a golden image of himself in response to the vision in chapter 2, and then to demand worship. Why would rational people be willing to do this? Because, notice verse 14, it was the one who has, who is having, present tense, "the wound of the sword and has come to life." Apparently, even after his complete recovery, the apparently fatal wound on Antichrist will still be visible, and it will be a constant testimony to his power.

Verse 15, "and it was given to him" – again, the passive voice, by God – "it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast." That is so ironic, because if you've read the Old Testament, you know again and again, what does God say about idols? They can't respond – the Old Testament often ridicules idols for their inability to speak; they have mouths, but they can't speak! Satan is a very slow learner, but he finally comes up with an idea to try to solve that problem. John tells us the False Prophet received power to "give breath to the image of the beast." Now, there are two possibilities – again, we can't be absolutely certain – one possibility is that this is a deceptive false miracle, a technological sleight-of-hand carried out by a human under the control of Satan. It's interesting – John doesn't use one of the Greek words for life here, but the word for breath; that may imply that the image will be able, by some technological deception, to speak but not truly have life; that's one option. The second option is that God will allow the False Prophet to give some attributes of life to this image – but regardless, here's what happens, verse 15, "so that image of the beast would even speak." Whether it's a trick or a real miracle, the image of Antichrist will speak, and here's what it will say, verse 15, "and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed." When this image speaks, it will say something ominous – it will say I am God, and all of those who are not willing to acknowledge me are a pariah on the earth, they need to be exterminated; again, sadly, it brings back echoes of the great lie in Nazi Germany. All who refuse to worship the image are to be executed – so much for the lamb, huh? So much for the kinder, gentler approach of the False Prophet.

Now, one important note here – this will be the decree, this will be the plan, but they will not be entirely successful. Not all believers will be killed; we'll see this even next time – some believers will survive until the second coming, when Jesus returns, and they will enter alive into the millennium. How do we know that? A couple of passages, but consider Matthew 25, where you have the judgment at the end of the tribulation period, and some are said to be sheep and are ushered into the Kingdom. And, according to Zechariah, two-thirds of the Jews will die in the great tribulation, but a third of them will be protected by God and will be redeemed, in Zechariah 13:8-9. So, not all believers, not all Jews will be killed, but that will be the plan, that will be the decree, and it will be a massacre.

Fifthly, we come to his devious strategy. His devious strategy – verses 16-18. Antichrist's minister of religious propaganda will be a master manipulator – he will create a brilliant but incredibly devious strategy. It will initially look completely harmless because all it begins with is a worldwide personal I.D. That makes sense, doesn't it – I mean, we see the problems today with identification and our government's struggles for ways to make sure that its citizens are identified – we have to solve that problem. Verse 16, "And he causes all" – no one is exempt. Regardless of their position – "the small and the great." Regardless of their financial situation – "the rich and the poor." Regardless of their social standing – "the free men and the slaves." It doesn't matter – every person, "to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead." Literally – and this makes it clearer – that they may give to them a mark. In other words, this isn't voluntary – everyone will be forced to accept the mark. Now, the mark of the beast is mentioned six times in Revelation, and here's what's interesting – it always, without exception, occurs with worshipping Antichrist. This is not like, well okay, I can hold my nose and carry this I.D. – no, you want the I.D., you worship. This is another, by the way, of Satan's parodies of God here in this chapter – you remember God will mark, or seal, His 144,000 witnesses. Go back to chapter 7 and look at verse 3. "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads." This has already happened; this was God's plan – God seals His own to protect them from His wrath. Again, a second-rate imitator, Satan inspires the False Prophet to seal the worshippers of Antichrist to protect them from the wrath of Antichrist. The Greek word for mark here refers to, literally – this is from the leading Greek lexicon – "a mark that is engraved, etched, branded, cut, imprinted." In other words, this word was used in a lot of different contexts – it was used in the first century of brands on animals and slaves, it was used of tattoos that worshippers willingly got to show their devotion to that deity, it was used of stamps on documents to authenticate what they were, and it was used even of impressions made on coins. And so, this word was used in a lot of different ways. This mark will identify all who worship Antichrist, it will certify their loyalty and their allegiance to him – and the worshippers of Antichrist will receive this mark, notice, either "on their right hand or their forehead." Why is that? It's very simple – those are the most visible and accessible places on the body; this is why, when you go to some theme park, what do they do? They stamp your hand because it's easy to see, easy to note, easy to authenticate.

So, the False Prophet will demand that all, without exception, who worship Antichrist will receive this mark. Seems harmless enough; we need to have some sort of identification – but what starts as a simple government I.D. will quickly become a powerful tool to destroy Antichrist's enemies, and the False Prophet will accomplish this through a universal financial policy. Verse 17, "And he provides that no one will be able to buy or sell, except the one who has the mark." Now, we're going to see later in chapter 18 that Antichrist will dominate and control world commerce during those seven years – here's Revelation 18:3. "All the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality," talking about his empire. Revelation 18:11-19 explains that Babylon, Antichrist's empire, will dominate world trade and economics, and so, this policy will be very easy to impose and to enforce. The False Prophet makes the mark of the beast – listen to this – the authentication for using Antichrist's universal monetary system; it will be your PIN code to get what you need.

What exactly is the mark? Verse 17, "either the name of the beast or the number of his name." So, the mark that every person receives will be either the actual name of Antichrist, perhaps written out or perhaps abbreviated, maybe initials; or it will be the name of Antichrist expressed in numerical form. Probably, this refers to the collective numerical value of the letters of his name in the ancient languages of that time, when John lived and wrote, in Hebrew, in Greek and in Latin, the letters of the alphabet could be used as numerals. For example, the first nine letters represented the numbers one through nine, and so forth; there was a code for what those letters represented in terms of numbers. So, the number of a name, in the ancient world, was the sum of the numerical value of each of the individual letters, and this was not uncommon at all in the ancient world. In fact, this week I came across a quote from Adolf Deissmann in his book Light from the Ancient Near East, and he cites two examples of this – he's not talking about Revelation, he's just talking about how this worked, and he's talking about it in graffiti that was found in the city of Pompeii; here are two pieces of graffiti in the ancient city of Pompeii. The first is, "the number of her honorable name is 45" – somebody, who had a crush, or sadly, who had an affair, came up with a code based on the name of the person. Here's another one, "I love her whose number is 545" – so, this was common. The mark, then, will be the name of Antichrist written out or abbreviated, or it will be the numerical value of his name – and no one without that mark, either on his hand or on his forehead, will be able to purchase the necessities of life, things such as food, clothing, medical supplies, and so forth. And when you go back through all the judgments that have already unfolded on this planet, there will be a desperate need for all of those and a desperate lack of them all.

That bring us, in this devious strategy, to a calculated numerical code – verse 18, "Here is wisdom." The riddle he's about to share requires wisdom to decipher. "Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast," that is, the number of the Antichrist. The number of the name of Antichrist will require wisdom and understanding to decode – verse 18, "for the number is that of a man." Now, some argue that what he really says here is that the number is that of man; in other words, it's the number of mankind – as the number of perfection is seven, the number of man is six, and so he will be human. That's possible, but I think the Greek structure makes that unlikely. More likely, and most commentators would agree with this, the number that he is about to give actually represents an individual's name – it's the number of the name of the Antichrist himself, the human person indwelt by a demon who will compel the worship of the world. Verse 18 says, "and his number is six hundred and sixty-six." Now, in some Greek manuscripts, the number is spelled out in three Greek words; in other manuscripts, it's abbreviated using the first letter of each of those words with an accent or a line above to show that the letters are used as numbers – but regardless, it's six hundred and sixty-six. There are a few manuscripts that say it's six hundred and sixteen, but that's not likely – there's a lot more textual support for six hundred and sixty-six.

So, who is this man, and how do we use his number to calculate his identity? Sadly, throughout the history of the church, there have been countless attempts to do just that. Some of the most common – let me just give you some that, throughout church history, the church has said, oh, we know who it is! Here it is – it's Nero! No, in the twelfth century, it was Saladin. And, as you might guess, throughout history, those who have been faithful and loyal to the scripture have pointed to various Popes. Some have said, no, it was Napoleon – that's what some of the Christians then living said. During the twentieth century, Christians used the number 666 to say that the Antichrist was Joseph Stalin – it wasn't a bad guess. Adolf Hitler; Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt; Henry Kissinger – that was a big one when I was growing up; Mikhail Gorbachev; Saddam Hussein. Or, if you live in America, the latest U.S. President that you didn't vote for. The early church father Irenaeus warned against speculating who Antichrist might be – in fact, he mentioned that even in his day, Christians had been deceived by wrongly identifying individuals as Antichrist. He encouraged Christians to wait until Antichrist was revealed; he believed, as I believe, that the identity of Antichrist can't be known until he comes – but, once he appears on the world stage, who he is and his identity will be able to be clearly calculated from this text, at that time, based on the circumstances and his actions. This is not for us; don't spend the next two years trying to figure out whose name might add up to 666. The good news is, believer, you're not going to be here to see it unfold; you don't need to know.

So, what are the lessons from this passage for us – I mean, wow, that's a lot of bad news; what do we learn from this? Well, first of all, we learn the basic lesson that we as human beings are hard-wired to worship. It's in our nature – we were made to worship and glorify God. "What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."[SR4] Man was made to worship, and worship he will – if it's not the true God, he will find something else to worship. In our day, it's self or it's the creation, as well as many false gods. Romans 1 makes it clear – we are worshippers, and when you reject the worship of the true God, you're going to make some other god, whether it's yourself or something else.

Secondly, the true identity of one who claims to speak for God is never discerned by an apparent power to work miracles, but whether he speaks in keeping with the previous revelation. Now, that said, as you've heard me say, when you look at biblical history, God gave His messengers the power to work miracles – but even if they could work miracles, there was another, even more important test. Go back to Deuteronomy 13; I promised you we would look at this before we were done. Moses warned of this – folks, this was written fourteen hundred years before Christ! Verse 1 of Deuteronomy 13.

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, "Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them." You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him, and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt … to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. You shall purge the evil from among you.[SR5]

What is Moses saying? He's saying, listen – yes, God authenticates His messengers by miracles, but Satan raises up false prophets who will come along and do things like the False Prophet will do in the end times and do things that are persuasive. Listen, they're on our TV all the time, and unsuspecting people buy into what they're doing because they appear to do something miraculous. But Moses says if they don't speak in keeping with previous revelation, they're a false prophet, even if they can do a miracle. So, get that in your mind and turn off the nuts.

Number three – unbelievers are always open to error and deception, but believers to the word of God. We're going to see it in 1 John 4:5-6. "They," that is, false teachers, John says, "are from the world, therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us," that is, to the ones God has appointed to the scripture. "He who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."

Number four – and I love this one – true Christians will never abandon the true God and the true Christ to worship Satan's counterfeits. You don't have to worry about that, Christian – it's never going to happen, you're His; He will preserve you. Jude 24-25 – Jude is a book about false prophets, and how does Jude end? I love this – "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling," that's not talking about just stumbling into any sin, that's talking about stumbling into damning error taught by false teachers. "To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." You don't have to worry, Christian, that somehow, you're going to get swept into damning error – it will not happen; God will not allow it. You're His – He gave you to His Son in eternity past, and He will finish what He started.

At number five – one day Christ will consign Satan, his false Christ, and his false prophets and spiritual leaders to the same eternal fate, in the lake of fire. Look over at chapter 19, verse 20. "And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone." Go over to chapter 20 and look at verse 10 – "The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Listen – Christ, our King, is in control. You read chapter 13 and you don't see Him at all; He's behind the scenes – all you see are these little phrases like "it was given to Antichrist," "it was given to the False Prophet." Where is Christ? And the answer is, He is in control of it all, sweeping all of human history to the end He has determined. He is on the throne, He has the scroll with the seals, He's broken those seven seals, He is bringing judgment upon this world, He is taking back control of it from the usurper, and He will come to rescue His own in the second coming. Christ, our King, wins – all glory be to Christ! That's where Christ is, and next week, Lord willing, we will see Him in action. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for revealing this to us. Lord, thank You that, while us alive now will never see these things because we'll be taken in the rapture, thank You that we know, and we can rest our hearts in the fact that Christ wins, that He is the King, that He is in control of all things. Lord, help us, even as we sang earlier, to turn our eyes upon Jesus, to remember His death, to remember His resurrection, and to remember that He is the coming King, when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, to Your great glory. Father, thank You that we belong to Him. Lord, I pray for those here tonight who don't know You – Lord, don't let them presume on Your mercy; don't let them imagine or assume that they have another day of life, or that they can trust in You whenever they want. Lord, I pray that You would humble them and bring them to true repentance and faith before their head hits the pillow tonight – may they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

We pray it in His name. Amen.

[SR1]Tom says chapters 2 through 14 here and in the next sentence, but chapters 12 through 14 come after the blowing of the seventh trumpet and before the pouring of the bowls, acting as the interlude he referenced.

[SR2]From Revelation 11:7.

[SR3]2 Thessalonians 2:9.

[SR4]From the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

[SR5]Deuteronomy 13:1-5.


Antichrist - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

The False Prophet

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:11-18

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

More from this Series



The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3

The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3

Salutation & Dedication

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:4-6

The King is Coming!

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:7-8

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20

Ephesus: Loveless Fidelity

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:1-7

Smyrna: Faithful in Suffering

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:8-11

Pergamum: Undiscerning Tolerance

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:12-17

Thyatira: Extra-Biblical Authority

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:18-29

Sardis: Dead Christianity

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:1-6

Philadelphia: Enduring Faithfulness

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:7-13

Laodicea: A False Gospel

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:14-22

He is Worthy! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

He is Worthy! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

He is Worthy! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

He is Worthy! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17

Tribulation Saints - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17

Tribulation Saints - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Little Book

Tom Pennington Revelation 10:1-11

The Two Witnesses - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13

The Two Witnesses - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13

The Seventh Trumpet: The Beginning of the End

Tom Pennington Rev. 11:14-19

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

Antichrist - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

Antichrist - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

The False Prophet

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:11-18

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

Heaven Prepares for the End

Tom Pennington Revelation 15:1-8

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24

Babylon Is Fallen! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 18

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 18

The Rapture of the Church

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

The Future Tribulation

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-18

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10

The Glorious Return of Jesus Christ

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:11-16


Tom Pennington Revelation 19:17-21

The Real Binding of Satan

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-3

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10

The Millennium: Christ’s Future Reign on Earth - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10

The Last Judgment

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:11-15

Our Eternal Home - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8

Our Eternal Home - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8

The Eternal City - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5

The Eternal City - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5

The Eternal City - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5