The Beast and his mark in the right hand or in the forehead is clearly seen in John’s vision as recorded in Revelation, Chapter 13.
Perhaps, the most deadly and deceptive challenge to the human soul is the guise of religion. Playing off of an inborn quest to know God and others, it spins a web of deception upon the unsuspecting soul. Building what looks to be a wholesome structure, an image of health and wealth, the innocent fails to see the shadow of death that lurks in its association. Although looking like a harmless lamb to the naive, it speaks deceptive words of the “old Serpent” first seen in the garden of Eden. For under the lure of joyful festivities and of colorful rituals, it entraps the inexperienced in a never ending, never fully satisfying service to its cause. It is as the author of Revelation recorded, “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon” (Rev. 13:11). Religion empowered by “a great red dragon” (Rev. 12:3) does, indeed, slay its victims unmercifully.
John tells of this vision of doom yet in another graphic word picture:
And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed (Rev. 13:11-12).
In order to fully understand the “beast” that “caused the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast,” the first beast must be examined. As will be seen, this second beast which came up out of the earth is symbolic of a religion system created “to worship the first beast.” In turn, the first beast would received “his power, and his seat [a stately seat or throne], and great authority” from “the dragon” (Rev. 13:2).
The first beast is revealed.
As was seen in the last session, the dragon (meaning of drakōn which is transliterated from the original language is “a fabulous kind of serpent [perhaps as supposed to fascinate]”), was identified by John as “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). Again, as stated in the last session, the words Devil and Satan are used less as names in the Scriptures than they are used as titles. The words Devil and Satan identify what the “old serpent” is doing rather than identifying the Devil and Satan as entities unto themselves. When the “old serpent,” the flesh, throws slanderous accusations (those activities are called the Devil) against God by inciting the mind to depend upon its own aid, it becomes an adversary (that activity is called Satan) against God.
This truth is indicated in John’s vision of the first beast in Chapter 13 of Revelation. He recorded,
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority (Rev. 13:1-2).
This beast (original language means “a dangerous animal” of which man is by far the most dangerous of the animals) “[rose] up out of the sea.” The sea is symbolic of people. In other words, this beast would rise up out of the people “with seven heads, and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns [diadems], and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.” The seven heads represents the perfection of the human’s ability to think and the ten horns is symbolic of the completeness of his thinking in authority. Notice, in this vision as opposed to the previous vision in Chapter 12, the crowns are not on the heads but are upon the horns. The horn with its diadem is representative of a ruling kingship or in this case an emperor of Rome.
Also, it is on the heads of the beast that “the name of blasphemy” is seen. With the word blasphemy being transliterated out of the Greek, it implies that the heads of the beast are where the vilification (meaning of blasphemy) of God actually occurs. There is nothing more abusive and slanderous against God than the humanistic thinking of man’s mind. It is this fleshly thinking of man that enables the king, the emperor, to have his power, his throne, and great authority. Although many kings and emperors of the past claimed divine rights to rule, with some even claiming to be divine, their power, their throne, and their authority were possible only by being given those privileges, often from misinformed people. How true it is that this beast was given “his power, and his seat, and great authority” by “the dragon,” the old serpent which according to Paul is the flesh (2 Cor. 11:3).
This dangerous animal by the use of a leopard, a bear, and a lion (connecting Daniel’s prophecy of the lion, the bear, and the leopard which represented kings [Dan. 7:1-17]) indicates that the “beast” is a governmental power. Such phrases in the description of the beast as “his power, his [throne], and great authority” (Rev. 13:2), “to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rev. 13:7), and “power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” (Rev. 13:7) also signify a political authority. In addition, the statement, “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months” (Rev. 13:5), indicating the three and one-half years from the beginning siege of Jerusalem until the fall of the city with its Temple, pinpoints this beast as the political power of Rome.
John not only saw the beast with the seven heads each with the name of blasphemy and the ten horns each with their crowns, he also saw “one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast” (Rev. 13:3). The political power of Rome was “wounded to death,” when Nero, Caesar of Rome (54-68 AD), being tried in absentia and condemned to death as a public enemy by the Senate committed suicide by a sword. The first Roman Emperor to commit suicide and followed by a brief but deadly civil war, the political power of the Roman Empire virtually did not exist. With his death the Julo-Claudian dynasty, which began with Augusta, the first Empower of Rome, came to an end.
In the year immediately following the end of Nero’s reign, the chaotic conditions produced four different empowers. The first successor to the throne of Rome, Galba, reign for two months and was murdered. The next, Otho, became Empower and reign for three months before committing suicide. Vitellius was Empower for eight months before being killed by Roman soldiers. Finally, Vespasian, who led the army of Rome against Israel in Judea, claimed the imperial power of the throne (69-79 AD). Restoring order, Vespasian began the Flavian Dynasty which ruled for 27 years. With the deadly wound being healed, “all the world [once again] wondered after the beast” (Rev. 13:3).
Driven by the fleshly desires of a sensual world (John recorded it as “worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast”), the people, like a dog licking his master’s hand, prostrated themselves to give homage to the power of Rome: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). John further recorded that the people of the world in the first century “worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him” (Rev. 13:4)?
Unfortunately, some of those whose names were written in the book of life suffered server persecutions from Nero when they were “arrested and brutally executed by being thrown to the beasts, crucified, and . . . burned alive.” The beast “opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven” (Rev. 13:6). Power was given to him by “the dragon,” sensual desires of the flesh, “to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rev. 13:7).
It may seem at this point that the outcome for the saints is bleak. However, the “Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1) does not leave the believer without hope. John recorded, “If any man have an ear, let him hear” (Rev. 13:9). Then, he added words of encouragement not only for the believers in the first century but for all believers in every century who find themselves in troubling times: “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.” To which, he added, “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Rev. 13:10).
Another of the early followers of Jesus simply said,
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (2 Thess. 1:6-9).
The second beast revealed.
The beast, who was given “his power, and his seat, and great authority” by the dragon, is not the only beast seen in this vision. John wrote, “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon” (Rev. 13:11). Looking like a lamb, speaking as a dragon, and “he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him,” the second beast would “causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” (Rev. 13:12). In fact, as will be seen, this worship of the beast, the power that reigns in the fleshly minds of the people, will come from an elaborate scheme designed for that very purpose. It is the deception that looks like a lamb but speaks as a dragon in faulty religion.
Throughout the Roman empire there were local temples dedicated to particular emperors. During the course of an year, a great number of festivities were held to honor the emperor and to celebrate Roman rule. To facilitate this worship, the second beast said “to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live” (Rev. 13:14). This image would be in the likeness of the first beast in that the name of blasphemy would saturate its festivities and its rituals. The cult of emperor worship had developed into a highly structured scheme that blasphemed “the name of God, his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven” by what it was doing in the name of worship.
This intricate system of deception would be made possible because the second beast “doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men” (Rev. 13:13). John recorded that he “deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast.” (Rev. 13:14). This deception of the people was possible because the heavenly influences of the Spirit of God were being displaced by the earthly desires of the “old serpent,” the lower debased nature now found in man.
With the word fire in “maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth” meaning, “fire (literally or figuratively, specifically lightning,” the elaborate schemes of the fleshly practices of religion will entrap the mind by smothering the spiritual influences of the heavenly realm. The “spark of life” falls from the heavenly domain to dwell among the earthly desires of the flesh. The fire of life within man is made to fall from its heavenly realm to dwell among the earthly by the fleshly performances of man-centered worship. The deadly practices of religion “doeth great wonders, so that [it] maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” It was as Jesus said, “I beheld Satan [the activity of the mind that opposes God] fall from heaven” as he warned his disciples of the danger of the fleshly thinking of the mind (Luke 10:18).
Exercising the power of the imaginations of the human mind (“he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him”), this systematic scheme of worship would actually take on a “life of its own.” Dictating what and how its activities should be performed, the heartbeat and breath of its existence is perpetuated. Those who failed to measure to the accepted way of its ideology and practices are ostracized. John recorded this phenomenon in graphic symbolism as “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Rev. 13:15).
The religious “organism” even becomes more entrenched when “he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads” (Rev. 13:16). Although there are many who want to interpret this literally, it is also an allegory as is the entire vision of the two beasts. It points back to the two horns in ” I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.” First, the mark in the right hand symbolizes the many physical deeds and actions that the participants must perform in their reverential service. The mark in their foreheads symbolizes the role of the imaginations of the mind in this great lie perpetrated by faulty religious practices.
Moreover, unless “the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” is the identifying nature of an individual, he/she will not be allowed to participate in its festivities and its rituals: “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:17). Actually, they will be “killed” by religion so that participation in its endeavors is prohibited: “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Rev. 13:15). The use of “a mark in the right hand or in their foreheads” serves to identify those who participate in this flawed worship as being loyal to the Beast who “deceiveth them that dwell on the earth” as opposed to being faithful followers of the “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
Amazingly, John would actually identify the person that sat on the throne of the imperial power of Rome during the last half of Jesus’ prediction “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (Matt. 24:34). After the great fire of Rome (64 AD), this Emperor, perhaps to shift the blame from himself, accused the already detested Christians by much of the populace as the cause of the fire. Severe persecutions such as beatings, fed to ravaging animals, and beheadings were inflicted upon many of the Christians. One historian recorded that crucified Christians were used as human torches. John identified this Beast by recording, “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Rev. 13:18). With the number six being one less than the perfect seven, six symbolizes less than perfection (imperfection) with 666 being the intensified imperfection of man. Using the Hebrew selling of the name, Nero Caesar is identified by many, both in modern time and in the Church Fathers, as the Beast of Revelation.
The imperial power of governmental control and the tenets of religious horror were first seen in the letter sent to the seven churches: “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write . . . I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is . . . wherein Antipas . . . was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth” (Rev. 2:12-13); “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write . . . I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:8-9). These two antagonists to the kingdom of God are not only revealed in the vision of the two beast (Rev. 13:1-18) but will be seen again in the remaining chapters of Revelation. The disclosure of Jesus Christ will finish the story in telling how these two rivals for the faith of men are overcome. The victory will be won as “the mystery of God [is] finished” (Rev. 10:7). In that day, “the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). The slain Lamb, who once was dead but now is alive, proclaimed,
It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son (Rev. 21:6-7).