Think “wolf in sheep’s clothing” as you read this passage. In Revelation 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10, this second beast is called “the false prophet.” That’s consistent with the sentence in Revelation 13:11 that reads, “He had two horns like a lamb [the Christ figure in Revelation] but he spoke like a dragon.” See this as camouflage that disguises beast number two in religious trappings. This could be a false religion that already exists, or one yet to be revealed.
When the early Christians heard these verses read aloud in their churches (Rev. 1:3), I’m sure they were convinced that the Roman Empire was the first beast, and the second was the supportive priestly system that demanded worship of the emperor. Throughout much of the Roman world, emperor worship was a cult that helped to cement the vast and diverse empire. As our coins read “In God We Trust,” Roman coins frequently declared their rulers to be divine. Nero on his coins called himself “The Savior of the World.” Many Romans worshiped their emperor and burned incense at his altar. Christians refused to do so. From Rome’s perspective, this was a subversive act that put the two religions on a collision course. Early Christians, like believers throughout the ages, soon found that hostile governments knew how to bring pressure to bear on those who didn’t obey their decrees.
The intent of this false prophet is to get the people of the world to willingly worship the beast. To pull this off,“great and miraculous” signs will be performed, including even fire coming down from the heavens to Earth for everyone to witness.
In Matthew 24:24-25, Jesus said, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you this ahead of time.”
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