The Great Deceiver
“In an article title ‘U.N. Faithful Eye Global Religion,’ James Harder writes,
The secretary-general of the United Nation’s Millennium Peace summit thinks that all religions apples fall from the same tree and are equally delicious. At a recent international meeting, he told 1,000 delegates that religions need to accept the validity of all religions or else it will be difficult to attain world peace. Recently, the notion has emerged that the pathway to peace necessitates the unification of religions. The Universal Religion Initiative (URI) recently convened with 300 people present representing 39 religions and signed a charter, which officially launched the movement. The goal is that there will come a day in which “religious people will no longer insist on a single truth.” Episcopal Bishop Swing, a leader in the movement, goes even further: “There will have to be a godly cease-fire, a temporary truce where the absolute exclusive claims of each [religion] will be honored but an agreed upon neutrality will be exercised in terms of proselytizing, condemning, murdering, or dominating. These will not be tolerated in the United Religions Zone.” (22-33).”
I am not suggesting that the United Nations is in league with the antichrist, but I am saying that the impulse to unify the world in a single religion is already alive and well in our day. We must be on guard and realize that the true gospel necessarily makes exclusive claims about God, Christ, salvation, and eternity, and to minimize those claims is neither loving nor wise.” [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 233].
I worked in the banking industry, as a teller, right after I graduated from college
When I went through my training, they didn’t teach us how to identify a counterfeit bill
Instead they taught us all of the attributes of real bills
They told us what to look for in a real $20, $50, and $100 so that when we were presented with one of them, we could very quickly look for those attributes to determine if the bill was genuine or not
Technology has changed how we determine whether a bill is genuine or counterfeit
I remember using a special marker, while working at Walmart, that you would run over a bill to determine if was genuine or not
The mark would turn dark when the bill was genuine and be invisible if the bill was fake
Now they have special scanners (I don’t know how those work, but I recently had a Lowe’s cashier put the bill I gave her in the scanner, fortunately it came back as genuine, otherwise I would have had to talk with my bank)
How many of us have been burned by buying something that was an imitation and not the original?
Why do we do that?
It’s to save money, right?
We want the benefit of the item, but we don’t want to pay the high price for the original item
There have been news articles about charging cables
One local television station did a report on cheap versus more expensive charging cables
They are not all created equal, although that’s what the manufacturers want us to believe
Sometimes it’s better to spend the extra money to get the original so we can protect our electronic devices
John sees a second beast coming out of the earth and he describes what it looks like and what its purpose is. It has come to point people to the Antichrist and it will use deception, fear, and economic pressure to accomplish that task. John wants us to understand that...
BIG IDEA – Knowing the original protects us from being deceived by the fake.
GOD (Revelation 13:11-18)
Beast Described (v. 11)
The second beast came up out of the earth
Looks can be deceiving
I always get a kick out of the images that are used on books or to advertise upcoming conferences or special appearances
They use an image from a long time ago
Then, when they come out on stage, you wonder if you’re at the wrong conference or event
Or perhaps you think you went into the wrong room for the break out session
I’m not sure why they use an older picture for a new book or for advertising for conferences or special appearances
I hope to grow old gracefully, but I haven’t written any books and no one is asking me to speak at any conferences, so I think I can accomplish this goal
Social media allows us to create the image we want people to see
We may not be trying to give a false idea of who we are
Most people give the impression that everything in their life is wonderful, fun, and great
There are those who use social media as a way to prey on the innocent, so they have definitely created a false idea of who they are, online
That’s what we see here with the description of the second beast
Most scholars identify this second beast as the false prophet
This title for the second beast is not given in this series of verse, but he is identified this way in other parts of Revelation
Revelation 16:13, Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Revelation 19:20a, But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.
Revelation 20:10, And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.
Two horns like a lamb
The appearance of the first beast (Antichrist) could be described as grotesque with seven heads and ten horns with one of the heads having a scar from a “fatal” wound
But here, the second beast is described as having two horns like a lamb
This is Satan’s attempt to imitate Christ as the Lamb of God
Satan is using deception and imitation here – he wants the inhabitants of the earth to see this second beast as someone who is gentle and harmless
“The image of the horns (Rev. 13:11) suggests that the false prophet has authority, but the absence of a crown indicates that his authority is not political.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Volume 2, 606]
Jesus warned us about this kind of deception
Matthew 7:15-16a, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”
While Jesus was speaking of other false prophets, His warning applies to this great deceiver, because while he may look like a lamb when he opens his mouth it is a different story
Spoke like a dragon
“This is not the roar of an intimidating dragon but the beguiling, deceitful, and deceptive speech of the serpent who deceived Adam and Eve in the garden (Mounce, Revelation, 256).” [Akin, 232]
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come, until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
The warning for us is clear – don’t be deceived by someone who appears to be gentle and harmless, yet speaks deceitfully and deceptively
Knowing the original protects us from being deceived by the fake.
We know what this beast looks like, but what is his work, what is his purpose in the end times?
Work of the Beast (v. 12)
We see that he exercised all of the authority of the first beast on his behalf
Basically, he has the same authority as the first beast
He also has the power, dominion, and great authority of the dragon – it has been passed down to him from the first beast
He is exercising (doing/using) this authority in the presence of the first beast – the first beast has commissioned him to act on his behalf
He is a witness for the first beast – singing his praises and pointing others to him
He made the inhabitants of the earth worship the first beast
The first beast is identified by the fatal wound that had been healed
The same Greek word is used here for “make” as was used for “exercised” (poieō)
It means “to make” or “to do”
Most Bible translations use the English word “makes” or “causes”
The NLT translates it as “requires”
The CSB translates it as “compels”
Those two translations bring more force to what the false prophet is doing in exercising his delegated authority
He is making (requiring) everyone to worship the beast
While there appears to be some coercion here, we also see that the false prophet uses great and miraculous signs to deceive the inhabitants of the earth
Deception of the Beast (vv. 13-15)
Performed great and miraculous signs
PRINCIPLE – Evil can use the appearance of miracles to deceive people.
“Not everything that appears to be a miracle is a miracle. And not everything that is a miracle is a miracle from God.” [Akin, 233]
When Moses was sent back to Egypt to lead the Israelites out, the magicians in Pharaoh’s court were able to duplicate the first three plagues by their magic arts
They were able to turn their staffs into snakes (Ex. 7:11-12); turn the water to blood (Ex. 7:22); and make frogs cover the land (Ex. 8:7)
Beginning with the plague of gnats, the magicians were no longer able to duplicate this through their magic arts
Exodus 8:18-19, But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.
We don’t know all of the great and miraculous signs the false prophet will perform, but he obviously will do multiple ones, because the word “signs” is in the plural
We are given one example of what he did
He will cause fire to come down from heaven to earth
Most of the time in Scripture when fire came down from heaven or from the presence of the Lord it was an act of God’s judgment
Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24)
When Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu offered unauthorized fired before the Lord, fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them (Lev. 10:1-2)
The Israelites were complaining about their hardships where the Lord could hear them, He sent from Himself and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp (Num. 11:1)
Perhaps the most well-known Biblical example of fired coming down from heaven is when Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. They were unable to get Baal to consume their sacrifice, but God consumed all of Elijah’s sacrifice (1 Kings 18:38)
We’re not told if this fire from heaven consumed anything or anyone
He did this in full view of the people
The great and miraculous signs of a true prophet are always pointing to God or Jesus
False prophets will use their “power” to elevate themselves in the eyes of the people
The false prophet here is pointing people to the Antichrist, so he is performing his miraculous signs in full view of everyone
These great and miraculous signs were done for one reason, and one reason only, to deceive the inhabitants of the earth
We have to know the original, so we’re not deceived by the fake
How can we know the original?
God has provided his Holy Word for us to study and mine the nuggets of truth from
His Word is true and trustworthy
We have to take the time to study it, memorize it, and hide it in our hearts
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to studying the original (God’s Word), so I can tell when something is fake.
There are multiple opportunities for you to study the original
We have Sunday school classes every Sunday morning at 9:00 am
There are multiple small groups that are meeting or will begin meeting soon
Dean and Nancy Tate’s home in Idaville begins this evening (Oct. 14)
Doris Hoffman’s home in York Springs continuing to meet this evening (Oct. 14)
Shape UP small group continuing to meet at the church (Oct. 24)
The Men’s Bible Study will be starting on Oct. 16
Deception through the signs
All of this is happening under the control of God
“God ‘gives’ the false prophet his power to ‘delude’ the nations with counterfeit miracles (13:14; 19:20). In Rom. 1:24, 26 we are told that due to their absolute depravity, ‘God gave [the Gentiles] over to their shameful lusts.’ This is the same principle . . . Since the earth-dwellers have rejected God’s offer of salvation and refused to repent (9:20-21), God is ‘giving them over’ to the very ‘deception’ they have already preferred.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 514]
This deception is pretty convincing, because the second beast is able to tell the people to set up an image of the first beast and they obey
“Blinded by unbelief and sin, the world will easily fall prey to the second Beast’s deceptive message and methods. Intellectually attracted to him, emotionally drawn by his appealing style and convinced by his amazing signs, they will voluntarily submit and obey [and worship]. (Insights, 184).” [Swindoll cited by Akin, 234]
Ordered the people to set up an image of the beast
The people will do just as he says, because they have been completed deceived
They believe that the Antichrist and the false prophet are genuine and real instead of counterfeit and fake
The image will be in honor of the first beast
The fatal wound is mentioned again
We see a little more detail about how the first beast sustained this wound
It came by the sword
This wound, and the healing of it, is particularly significant in the deception of the people of the earth, which is why it is mentioned as often as it is
The false prophet is then given power to give breath to the image so it could speak
We are not told exactly how this image would be animated and able to speak
In ancient times there were individuals who used pulleys and machines combined with ventriloquism to make it appear as those images could move and speak
There is also a spiritual realm, inhabited by demons (and angels), who perhaps possess the image and cause it to come to life
The purpose behind animating the image of the Antichrist is so it could speak and give directions concerning those who refused to worship it
PRINCIPLE – Evil will use the threat of death to force some people to reject God and worship the Antichrist.
The great division of the human race is in view here
People will not be able to straddle the fence at this point
They will either worship the Antichrist or be killed
“Half-hearted Christians do not surrender their lives for a cause in which they do not really believe.” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 258-59]
Worshiping the fake Christ (Antichrist) will result in eternal separation from God
Knowing the original protects us from being deceived by the fake.
We will have to be willing to surrender our lives in order to faithfully follow Jesus Christ
In our current day and age
Most of us are not having our lives threatens because we are Christians
We don’t fear death, but we do fear other lesser threats
We don’t want to be alienated because of our faith
We don’t let our friends at school know we are a Christian, because we may be made fun of
We don’t let our family, neighbors, or coworkers know we are follower of Christ, because we might be ridiculed or persecuted
Kerry Livgren, former band member of Kansas, tells the story of his conversion, which was private. One of the other band members asked him what was different about him. He said that he never told the other band members that he had accepted Christ, but his speech and actions (or what he wasn’t saying and doing) spoke volumes. The band member that asked him what was different told him that he was a Christian too. Kerry’s response was, “I didn’t know.” That band member’s life did not show a transformed life, while Kerry’s did.
If we aren’t able to stand up for our faith when death isn’t a threat, then how will we be able to do it when death is a threat?
We have to determine now, whether we are all in, or simply just playing church or “trying out” Christianity
People should be able to tell from our speech and actions, whether or not we are a Christian
They should also hear it from our mouths – we should be sharing our testimony
Where are you at today? (Is your relationship with Christ nominal or on fire? Are you willing to sacrifice your job, friends, family, reputation, etc. in order to follow Jesus whole-heartedly? Are you all in or simply following half-heartedly?)
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to follow Jesus with my whole heart, even if it costs me everything.
Making that commitment today means that some things will have to change
There will be things you will have to sacrifice in order to be all in
It means spending time studying God’s Word, praying, serving, sacrificing, seeking, sharing your faith, and much more
Your entire life will be directed by focusing on what God is calling you to do instead of what the world thinks you should do
It may mean changing careers to serve in ministry
God may call you to be a missionary overseas
It’s no longer good enough for us to remain in the “holy huddle”
We have to be crashing the gates of hell and spreading light into the darkness
While we don’t have the threat of death hovering over our heads right now, when the eschaton unfolds, the people of the earth will have a choice to make concerning worshiping the Antichrist
That will not be the only choice they will have to make, which we see in the final three verses of this section
Mark of the Beast (vv. 16-18)
The same Greek word is used once more (poieō) which can mean to make or do
Most translations have it as “caused”
The NIV uses “forced”
The NLT uses “required”
Again both of those are stronger that simply saying “to make”
It includes everyone
The three couplets (small and great; rich and poor; free and slave) are a literary way of saying everyone
No one is exempt from being told that they need to receive the mark of the beast
Location of the mark
They can get it on their right
They can also get it on their forehead
This is another imitation of what God and Christ have done
Revelation 22:4, They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
What is the mark?
We don’t know what the mark will be
There has been speculation that it could a tattoo that is visible
Others believe it will be a chip embedded under the skin perhaps (we see that technology happening right now)
What we do know is that the mark is the number of the name of the beast
It takes wisdom to understand the number of the name of the beast
John tells us that it is man’s number
He also tells us that the number is 666
Is there a way to take the number 666 and put a name to it?
There is an ancient practice called gematria that takes letters of the alphabet and assigns numbers to them
The first nine letters were the numbers one to nine
The next nine signified the tens to the nineties, and so on
Scholars have tried for centuries to make sense of the number 666
They have done all kinds of calisthenics with letters and numbers to try to figure it out
Nothing definitive has ever been agreed upon
I’m sure this is by God’s design
My favorite speculative interpretation is that 666 represented Ronald Wilson Reagan, because there are six letters in his first, middle, and last name
Others believe it is more symbolic than representing something less than perfection
God’s number of perfection is 7
The 666 represents the continual failure of Satan to defeat God’s people [Mounce, 262]
“The solution most commonly accepted today is that 666 is the numerical equivalent of Nero Caesar.” [Mounce, 262]
I believe that John’s associates would understand and be able to wisely determine who he was talking about
I also believe that when the time comes for us to understand the name that is associated with man’s number, that God will give us wisdom to discern it
Until that time, it is beyond our understanding
We also know for sure that the mark will be a sign of ownership by Satan and loyalty to him
God sealed the 144,000 as we saw in Rev. 7:2-4
We also see in history that the Jews would put the shema in little boxes that they tied around their left arm and across their forehead
These phylacteries had Deuteronomy 6:4-8 written on them
Read Deuteronomy 6:4-8
What we see here is another attempt by Satan to imitate what God has already done
Purpose of the mark
We have already seen that the mark shows ownership and loyalty to Satan
It will also be used to put economic pressure on people to conform to the “one-world” religion
PRINCIPLE – Evil will use economic pressure to force people to choose a side.
This gentle and harmless false prophet will not seem so gentle and harmless once he is given the power and authority to institute this one-world religion
There will not be any tolerance for those who don’t conform with the worship, ownership, and loyalty to the Antichrist
As mentioned earlier, every person on earth will have to choose a side
There will no longer be any neutral ground to stand on
Some people will think it’s harmless to worship the image of the beast, and they may do it without really being devoted to the beast
But, when the rubber meets the road it will be all or nothing
The economic pressures will be too much
Imagine having to watch your children go hungry
Think what it would it will be like to not be able to get medical attention
Without the mark you won’t be able to get electricity or fuel oil
The necessities of life will not be available to you without the mark
All of this will require that we know the original so we can protect ourselves from the fake.
How can we avoid deceit?
Patterson gives us six essentials [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 283]
Focus on Christ and his incarnation, atonement, and teaching
Always determine the doctrinal positions of “miracle workers.” If they are in violation of Scripture at any point, reject them
Be especially alert to “signs and wonders” that hinge on or involve the exchange of money or goods (2 Kgs 5:1-27; Acts 3:6)
Remember that regeneration, conversion to Christ, or the new birth is always the greatest miracle and the sure manifestation of the power of God
When uncertain, always seek discernment from the biblical text and from the guidance of the Holy Spirit
Remember that the Scriptures teach that deceit and false miracles will increase as the world moves toward the eschaton
As the local body of Christ in the greater Idaville area, we have to make sure that we are following God’s Word
Then we have to share with and teach others His Word
Kerry Livgren, former band member of Kansas, wrote the song Mask Of The Great Deceiver after becoming a Christian. Here are the lyrics to that song:
Well he’s the prince of the world his work is never complete
And though he promises all you’ll lie a slave at his feet
Don’t you know the world is his dominion?
Can’t you see that you’re bound in his chains?
The time is short so take your strength in what remains
He will fill up your ears and he’ll dazzle your eyes
But don’t believe what he’s saying ‘cause he’s the father of lies
In your heart don’t you know that he’ll betray you?
In the end he will drag you away
Till all the world is crying for the judgement day
And he’s fallen how he’s fallen
From the height of the morning star
Though his light’s still shining brightly
It’s the mask of the great deceiver
The great deceiver
Though the truth has walked among us
And the words that he spoke will remain
There’s a heartbreaking blindness upon us
All our efforts to be free are in vain
Without the gift of love
We’re lost without the love
Well he never will rest until his evil is done
And he don’t want you to know your freedom’s already won
Don’t you know the world is his dominion?
Can’t you see he keeps it in chains?
Time is short so take your strength in what remains
He’s fallen oh he’s fallen
From the height of the morning star
Though his light’s still shining brightly
It’s the mask of the great deceiver
The mask of the great deceiver
He’s going to make you a believer
He’ll tell you lies
He’ll betray your eyes
The great deceiver