Then, I saw another dangerous animal rising up out of the land, and it had two horns like that of a lamb, but it was talking like the dragon.

Then all authority of the first beast [the second beast] produces before [the first beast], and [the second beast] makes the land and those dwelling in it that they should fall prostrate in homage of the first beast, it having been cured of the calamity of its death.

And [the second beast] performs great signs, even that it would produce fire out of the sky to come down to the earth in the presence of the people.

And [the second beast] leads astray the dwellers upon the earth by reason of the signs that were given to it to do in the presence of the [first] beast, saying to the dwellers upon the earth to create the likeness of the [first] beast, who has the wound of the sword and lived.

And it was given to [the second beast] to give spirit to the image of the [first] beast in order that the image of the [first] beast would also speak, that it would even cause as many as would not fall prostrate in homage of the image of the [second] beast would be put to death.

Revelation 13:11-15
The Beast Slays God’s People | Douce Apocalypse – Bodleian Ms180, By Anonymous, England – [1], Public Domain,

Deceptively Dangerous

It is a bizarre situation. It seems right on the heels of the first strange and dangerous beast rising up out of the sea, a second beast emerges from the land. Whatever else it looks like, it has two little nubbins for horns, just like a wee lambkin. But do not be deceived by that! It is not meek and mild, it is not gentle and sweet.

John instantly knew its true identity because it talked like that dragon.

Perhaps John’s audience, as they were listening to this part of the oracle, thought about what Jesus had said to the temple intelligentsia.

You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires.

He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

John 8:43-45 (NRSV, italics mine)

Another time, Jesus spoke of deceptive appearances.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of uncleanness. 

So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Matthew 23:27-28 (NRSV, italics mine)

Jesus warned rapacious wolves decked out as sheep would seek to ravage God’s flock. John, Paul, and Peter all took up that warning and reminded their readers to remain alert, to test the spirit of the teacher and their teachings. Such teachers will have the beautiful appearance of the lamb, and perhaps the gentle demeanor of the Good Shepherd. But once they start teaching, the voice of the dragon will come out.

This imagery becomes even more apparent when the second beast begins to perform hair-raising miracles. In fact, in the presence of the first beast (which appears pretty passive in this passage), the second beast does everything the first beast had the authority to do.

  • Boldly speak blasphemies against God.
  • Inspire worship in all those around it.
  • Successfully wage war against God’s people, oppressing them.
  • Rule over every nation, every ethnic and language group.

But it can also perform supernatural acts such as causing fire to jut out of the sky and come blazing to earth in the presence of all the people. It is remindful of Elijah’s contest with the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal. Only this time, the second beast brings down unholy fire.   

And it works.

The “dwellers on the earth” are electrified by what they see. There is no doubt in their minds, this beast has complete power. But John indicates the beast successfully leads the people astray. How? So far, everything seems pretty obvious. It is a dangerous animal, it has enormous power, it is in alliance with the first dangerous beast which also has enormous power.

Beast from the Earth | The Saint-Sever Beatus, also known as the Apocalypse of Saint-Sever, (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS lat. 8878) is a French Romanesque illuminated Apocalypse manuscript from the 11th Century. By Illustrated by Stephanus Garsia (and other unnamed) – Public Domain

Counterfeit God

So where is the deception?

The fire from heaven is perhaps our clue, combined with the little lamb horns.

Fire from heaven is a God thing that signals God’s judgment or acceptance.

And finally, Elijah’s sacrifice proved the power and worthiness of God.

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust and even licked up the water that was in the trench. 

When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”

1 Kings 18:38-39 (NRSV, emphases mine)

The second beast’s fire was so like God. But not like God at all.

“The Devil from the Earth” | By Unknown – illuminator – sAFsfDyT01gFzA at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain

Corrupt Objective

Having got their complete and undivided attention, the second beast now reveals its objective: an image is to be made of the first beast. Not miraculously, but rather by the creativity and energy of the inhabitants of earth.

It would seem strange, at first, that a being with seeming unlimited power would require its subjects to do anything at all. But on second glance, this makes all the sense. What the people create and work on they will be invested in. They are to study the first beast, every aspect of it, with particular attention to be given to its calamitous wound, the deathblow given to it by a dirk, a maxaira, a short sword, or dagger, favored by assassins in antiquity.

Though the first beast has seven heads, apparently a head wound delivered by a dirk brought about its death. And then, miraculously, this lethal injury healed, and the first beast returned to life.

The image the humans were to create to represent the first beast must somehow include this miraculous event, much like the Christians in the first century used the image of a cross to represent the miraculous resurrection of Christ.

The malevolence of it all is palpable.

Yet, the evil does not end there.

For once the image is completed, the first beast would infuse the inanimate object with spirit, so that it will appear alive. It will speak. It will command homage. And it will put to death all those who do not bend the knee to it.

This last bit is truly frightening and particularly sinister, because it specifically undermines the one thing the prophets all underscored about idols. That idols are lifeless and cannot speak.

What Is the Beast’s True Objective?

John’s oracle lays it all out.

  1. The dangerous animal appears to be a respected Christian leader, or respected Christian organization.
  2. It draws attention to a governing system (the second beast) that is powerful, but stands in direct opposition to God and God’s people.
  3. It indicates this governing system is worthy of all respect—in fact, the second beast, posing as a Christian leader, also imposes this form of governance, and actively condemns Christians who stand in its way.
  4. It backs up what it is doing with signs that are recognizably authentic to Christians, but also to the whole rest of the world. In fact, the whole world is, by this time, already paying homage to the first beast.
  5. Once it gets everyone to create their own version of this form of governance, making sure it has the counterfeit characteristics that are very like Christ, but not at all like Jesus, it imbues it with with further, chilling, power.
  6. Once this form of governance is in place, it insists everyone get on board or face severe repercussions.
Worship of the Beast | Douce Apocalypse – Bodleian Ms180, By Anonymous, England – [1], Public Domain

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