I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch13 vv11-15, which describes the second of the two "Beasts" of that chapter.
(The attached thread is where I looked at the first Beast;
The Beast from the sea- a World-state
I'm going to be asking the question; what is this Beast adding to his predecessor?
We're told that the second Beast rose out of the earth
Following on from the first Beast, which rose from the sea.
The earth and the sea were brought into the warning of ch12 v12;
"Rejoice, then, O heaven, and you that dwell therein!
But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath."
I suggest that these two figures, from the earth and the sea, are implicitly set over against, and contrasted with, the figure of Christ coming "from
heaven". Then it would complete another reference to that three-way division of the universe, which is one of the running themes of Revelation.
What's the relationship between the first Beast and the second Beast?
My conclusion about the first Beast, on the one hand, was that it represented a political state.
On the other hand, I see no reason to question the standard assumption that the second Beast is a human individual.
Taking those two points together, that seems to settle the nature of the relationship.
They would relate in the same way that a political state relates to a human individual; the kind of individual, apparently, who makes people do
things, a leader.
This looks like the kind of relationship that exists between an Empire and its Emperor.
History gives us a useful analogy for this, in the form of Nazi Germany.
We can say that the first Beast is to the second Beast as the Third Reich itself was to the person of Adolf Hitler.
The recognition of this relationship takes us a long way towards understanding the rest of the passage.
We're told that he exercises all the authority of the first Beast in its presence
That would be necessary from the nature of the relationship.
In theory, the Empire itself is the real source of authority.
In practice, the Empire cannot exercise authority in person, because the Empire is not a person.
So the Third Reich, as such, could not hold meetings with generals, or dictate letters to secretaries, or shout at incompetent subordinates and
threaten to dismiss them. All these things, the practical exercise of authority, demanded the intervention of a human individual.
That was why it was necessary for Adolf Hitler to exercise all the authority of the Third Reich, "in its presence", as it were. Certainly in the
presence of all the symbols of the Reich.
We're told that it makes the earth worship the first Beast
Arnold Toynbee, in "A Study of History", and other places, draws attention to a form of political religion which he calls "collective
self-worship", when a society becomes its own god. As when Vespasian instituted the worship of the GENIUS POPULI ROMANI ("the spirit of the Roman
people"). He finds it in the city-state loyalties of ancient Greece, and the nationalism of modern Europe. One of the classic examples, of course, is
Nazi Germany, where the loyalty of the German nation was being focussed by Hitler upon an idealised and glorified vision of the German nation.
Toynbee foresees that this might be enlarged into a "collective worship of Humanity". I've already suggested that the first Beast, the world-state,
would be able to rise to power on the strength of leading the world into recovery from a catastrophe. In those circumstances, it might be easy for the
population of the world to recognise the world-state as a projection of themselves, and the second Beast could be encouraging them to do so.
"Collective self-worship of Humanity" would be the natural result, and there would be no need for compulsion- when did people ever need compulsion
to worship themselves?
We're told that he makes fire come down from heaven
This, again, is about the promotion of worship. It imitates the story in which Elijah called down the fire to vindicate his god against the prophets
of Baal. Perhaps it would relate to a reversal of what happened at Mt Carmel, in which the Beast appears to scatter the power of the Christian
What was the nearest equvalent in Hitler's experience? Perhaps it was this;
Surely that was the moment when he felt most clearly that his god, the Reich, had demonstrated its power and scattered its enemies.
We're told that he gets the people to make an image of the Beast
This, again, is about the promotion of worship. But an image does not need to be made of wood and stone.
Here is Adolf Hitler building an image of the Reich;
In this case, the image of the glory of the German nation is being built by sight and sound.
We're told that he can make the image speak
Here is Adolf Hitler, causing his image to speak.
Which he does, obviously, by being the spokesman (since the image cannot speak for itself).
We were told in v5 that the original Beast "was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words", and the second Beast is later re-labelled as
"the false prophet". That seems to confirm that the voice
of the second Beast would be just as central to its leadership as it was in the
case of Adolf Hitler.
So the two Beasts are in partnership, and the people's worship has a double focus.
In one sense, they are worshipping the Reich, or the world-state.
But, in another sense, their worship is focussed more narrowly upon the great leader himself.
We're told that it had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.
In other words, he presents himself as Christ (the Lamb), but the actual content of his speech gives him away.
It's become the custom to call him "The Antichrist", although the title doesn't appear in this book.
I must admit I don't like using the label, because it carries so many associations from mediaeval fantasy and Hollywood fantasy and other
speculations. All this baggage tends to confuse discussion of the figure found in Revelation.
Let's get back to basics and consider the definition.
The disciples were told by Jesus that "many will come in my name, saying 'I am the Christ'"- Matthew ch24 v5
The early church was told by John that "as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come"- 1 John ch2 v18
The natural and reasonable assumption is that both references to "many" are to the same kind of people, and that an "antichrist" should be
understood as someone claiming to be the returned Christ (taking the Greek ANTI as "in place of").
Does this apply to the second Beast? There are certainly signs that Christ is being imitated, not only in the "horns of a lamb", but also in the
business of "recovering from a mortal wound". I think the narrative is sending a sufficiently clear signal that he would, indeed, be claiming to be
the returned Christ.
(Though he might, at the same time, be claiming other titles, such as Mahdi and Maitreya and Krishna, in order to broaden his appeal to the other
cultures of the world)
But if he publicly claims to be the returned Christ, then he meets the definition of an "antichrist" and belongs to that category. Since he would,
presumably, be the final and supreme example of the species, I suppose you can call him "The Antichrist".
If you must.
If we look at the world around us, we cannot see a world-leader publicly claiming to be the returned Christ.
In any case, on my theory, we should not be expecting to see the two Beasts until after the catastrophic events of the Four Horsemen, which the world
has not yet experienced.
But once a world-leader does make that claim, the identification should not be difficult.
[edit on 18-7-2010 by DISRAELI]