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The Beast of the Earth

May 22nd, 2015

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth … His number is 666.

Revelation 13:11,18

Perhaps no character in the Revelation is as hotly debated as the Beast of the Earth, whose number is 666. There have been many theories about what this number means, and it is important to realize that it is a symbolic number in a book written in apocalyptic literature. The most logical assumption is that it points to spiritual recognition and not to earthly recognition. So it reveals character and unbelief, not the specific identity of the individual.

I remember someone showing me in the 1970’s how you could take the number of Henry Kissinger’s name, a=1, b=2, c=3, etc., who was then Secretary of State of the USA, and multiply them by three and it would total 666. “Therefore,” they assumed, “Kissinger must be the Antichrist.” But if that was the only requirement for the identity of the Antichrist, there would be many world leaders whose names could be made to add up to 666, and perhaps even more if we took the spelling of their names in different languages.

But, which beast is the Antichrist? The Beast of the Sea or the Beast of the Earth? Here are the important spiritual matters that I believe we should know.

Satan’s kingdom is organized: Satan has a purpose and a scheme, and he is organized in his kingdom and strategic in his actions to fulfill his plans. The first beast rises out of political chaos. The second beast, later called the “false prophet” (Rev. 19:20), exercises authority on behalf of the first Beast and causes the earth to to worship the first beast (Rev. 13:12). Later we will read of the Harlot that “sits on many waters” (Rev. 17:1), emphasizing a worldwide organization under the dominion of Satan.

The benefit to us in gaining this knowledge is that we might know and understand the depth of rebellion against God in this world. There have been many times when Christians have been overwhelmed by the evil in the world, when they were shut out of economic systems, deprived of personal ownership, hunted down and killed, their daughters forced into prostitution, their sons in to military service for the persecutors of their parents, horrible things done those who believe in Christ. And we are seeing such things today through ISIS. Whether we are in the midst of the persecution or observing it from afar, let us take this to heart, that evil goes deep within the human race, and that it is inspired by a determined source of spiritual rebellion against God.

But victory is assured: Another benefit is to learn that the day of judgment against all evil is coming, and to prepare ourselves for the victory of God. We prepare ourselves by personal worship, by learning from His Word, by prayer and devotion to Him, by serving Him, by sharing the gospel with the world around us, by loving others in Christ’s name, by praying and supporting those Christians who are oppressed, and by gathering together in churches for encouragement and effectiveness in service.

The Beast of the Earth: I take the position that the beast of the earth or the false prophet is like a false-spirit, and completes the image of the false-trinity. The dragon (Rev. 12:3) represents the false-father, the beast of the sea (Rev. 13:1) represents the false-son, and the beast of the earth represents the false-spirit.

The Reformers typically took the view that this was a prophecy directed toward the Popes and the Catholic Church. The historical method of interpretation had no problem in seeing the Pope as the beast of the earth and the Catholic Church as the Harlot (Rev. 17:1). The first beast rose out of the sea, which was associated with turbulent political waters (see yesterday’s notes). The Reformers typically pointed to the troubled Roman Empire, frequently invaded by the northern European tribes, as the “sea,” and the first beast represented the idea or the office of the Papacy, or the system of thought that gave way to the office. The second beast, rising from the more settled earth, coming from more calm and stable surroundings, represented the specific living and ruling Pope himself.

The “two horns like a lamb” meant that he would appear gentle and mild – most popes do initially, appearing gentle and meek and humble, despite their great riches and political power. They appear one way while they threaten kings and heads of state, “spoke like a dragon.” The harsh persecutions in the Dark Ages¬† and Middle Ages against all who were not Catholic, burnings at the stake, Inquisitor’s punishments, ostracizations, etc. – there were ample examples from history that seemed to fit the prophecy. The mark on the forehead, for example, was often assumed to be the sign of the cross on the forehead of the worshiper on Ash Wednesday.

But it is important to remember the statement of John, that many antichrists will rise through history before the ultimate Antichrist rises. And this is the weakness with the historical method of interpretation of Revelation, that it lends itself too easily for subjective interpretations – even when they fit very well. Other common thoughts of the historical interpretation was that it was Constantine the Great who was referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way,” that when Constantine moved his capital from Rome to Constantinople, that allowed for the church in Rome, particularly the bishop of Rome, to rise to power.

And into the historical interpretation fit neatly a Postmillennial perspective, that Christ would not return until after the Millennial reign. That chapters 19-20 of Revelation represented not the return of Christ but the missionary expansion of the church. Following the Protestant Reformation came the great Modern Missionary Movement, that would usher the kingdom of God into this world through the preaching and Christianizing of the nations of the world.  It was only the two World Wars of the twentieth century that led to the death of this interpretation, when the so-called Christian nations of Europe fought each other in such incredible bloody manner.

Yet this interpretation of the Papacy, the Pope, and the Roman Catholic Church does serve as an historical example of how this could be acted out – even though I do not believe they are the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy. Certainly, however, in many times and in many ways in the history of the Papacy, antichrist-like attitudes were acted out against the believing community.

  • The Beast of the Earth rises from a relatively stable environment, 13:11
  • He appears to be a man of peace, “two horns like a lamb,” but his true nature is otherwise, “spoke like a dragon,” 13:11
  • He serves as a false prophet, or like a false-spirit, to testify to the beast of the sea, “whose deadly wound was healed.”
  • The “deadly wound” is described as a head-wound (13:3), that refers to the Messianic prophecy of Genesis 3:15, “He shall bruise your head,” and a false-crucifixion of the false-son is envisioned. So a false Trinity and a false crucifixion results in a false-gospel, which is no gospel at all.
  • Great signs are performed, seemingly miraculous things, “granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak” and kill those who would not worship him (Rev. 13:15).
  • He enforces a means to regulate economy – the buying and selling of goods – that only worshipers of the beast of the sea can participate in. This means that his basic salvation is linked merely to this world, and that, I assume, the idea of eternal existence of the human soul is rejected. Life after death is looked at as a myth. All that matters is life here and now.

666: Contrary to what some think, I do not believe this is an indication of some numerical value of someone’s name. Rather it is symbolic of the false-trinity. Without going into all the meanings of the numbers and reasons they are considered so, (I recommend you check out https://carm.org/what-biblical-numerology), let me simply point out that the numbers 3 and 7 both are associated with perfection and with God. 777 would be God’s number.

  • Three: God is Father, Son, and Spirit; there are three forms of mater – gas, liquid, solid; three dimensions of existence – height, depth, width; three senses of time – past, present, future; Humanity is made as a trichotomy or trinity – body, soul, spirit; God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent; Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10:14-15, speaking of His death), the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20, speaking of His resurrection), the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4, speaking of His glory).
  • Six: Six is the number of man. Man was created on the sixth day. Man labors six days only. The sixth commandment was “though shalt not murder.”
  • Seven: Seven days in a week; seven orifices in the human head; Christ spoke seven sayings from the cross; seven churches in Revelation, and seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls.

So 666 is a perversion of 777, and indicates the attempt of Satan to replace the one true God, in which he will miserably fail.

There have been many, many. many attempts through the centuries to resolve this mystery in some way or another, using Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. The amount of attention to possible interpretations to this, identifying a certain man in history, have been practically endless. John says that it requires wisdom to understand, and that it can be “calculated” or counted. The Reformers often looked no further than the Latin word, Lateinos, which meant “the Latin man,” and found that calculating the numerical value of these letters in Latin totaled 666, proving for them that this was a reference to the Pope. But such attempts, and there have been many, are almost guaranteed to succeed eventually on some line or another.

The prophecy may become clear to the believers on earth when it is fulfilled, and not before. But we can certainly take to heart the clarity of the message in the nature of Satan. He will try to set himself as God, with a false-trinity, but his program can only promise hope in this world, not in the next. He will seek to dominate and control earthly economics, but he will ultimately be utterly defeated at the return of Christ.

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