The Unholy Trinity.

11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666  Revelation 13:11-18 ESV

John sees yet another beast. But this time, the beast is rising up out of the earth, not the sea. Yet, John describes it as “another” using the Greek phrase, allo therion, which means “one of the same kind.” These beasts are similar in nature, but distinctively different. This one has two horns like a lamb, and yet speaks like the dragon. He is not described with the same scary imagery as the first beast, but in spite of his less-formidable appearance, he is under the influence of the dragon, or Satan himself. While the first beast was described as having the features of a leopard, a lion and a bear, three ferocious and predatory animals, the second beast appears as a lamb, seemingly innocent and harmless. He has two horns, perhaps symbolizing his power, but it is limited in scope and authority. No one fears the horns of a lamb. But because of his association with the first beast and the influence of Satan on his life, this individual will prove dangerous.

He will operate as a second-lieutenant to the first beast, the Antichrist, and will exercise “all the authority of the first beast in its presence” (Revelation 13:12 ESV). He will use his power and influence to cause the people of the earth to worship Antichrist. During the first 3-1/2 years of the tribulation, there will arise an apostate church, a false church that will set itself up as the replacement for the true church that has been raptured. This false church is described by John in Revelation 17.

3 I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. – Revelation 17:3-6 ESV

During the first half of the tribulation period, the Antichrist will allow this apostate church to exist, but at the midway point, he will turn against, demanding that all worship be directed at him alone. Antichrist will use his power and his military might to destroy the false church.

16 They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. – Revelation 17:16-17 ESV

We know from the book of Daniel, that the Antichrist will come to power in the first half of the tribulation period. He will make a peace treaty with the people of Israel, allowing them to rebuild the temple and reinstitute the sacrificial system. But at the midway point, he will turn against them, breaking his agreement with them and putting an end to the sacrifices.

“And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” – Daniel 9:27 ESV

Jesus refers to this as the “abomination of desolation,” a phrase he picks up from Daniel.

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” – Matthew 24:15-21 ESV

This will mark the beginning of the “great tribulation” or second half of the tribulation period. And as Jesus makes clear, it will be a difficult time for all living on earth. And Daniel lets us know that it will last for 1,290 days or 3-1/2 years.

And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. – Daniel 12:11 ESV

This second beast is going to act as a kind of prophet for the Antichrist. He will be a religious figure, replacing the leadership of the apostate church and guiding the people of earth to worship Antichrist. Verse 14 seems to indicate that the abomination that takes place in the temple will be the erection of an idol to the Antichrist. This false prophet will cause the people to worship this idol, using powers provided by Satan to convince them. He will have the ability to call down fire. With his seemingly miraculous powers, he will be able to convince the people to make an idol, set it up in the temple, and worship the Antichrist. And it seems that he will have the power to cause this idol to come to life and even speak. It will all be a deception, because Satan is the father of lies and can only imitate, not replicate, what God can do.

There is much debate as to the meaning of verse 14. John refers to the first beast as having died and come back to life. Verse 12 states that the first beast receives a mortal, death-inducing wound, but that he somehow comes back to life. He dies, but is resuscitated. There are those who say this is simply an indication that the first beast represents a resuscitated world power, the once-fallen Rome. But it would seem that all Satan is doing in these days is meant to replicate and mimic the work of God. Satan is setting himself up as the god of this world. And Antichrist becomes his stand-in for Jesus, the Messiah. Like Jesus, who is worshiped because He died and came back to life, the Antichrist will be worshiped for the same reason. John describes him as having been “wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:14 ESV). There are those who argue that this is impossible, because only God can give life. They reject that idea that Satan could resurrect a dead body, having no power to do so. But all that happens in these days will be under the direct supervision of God. Perhaps He will allow Satan to have the power to give life to the Antichrist, all so that the nations will show their true colors and fall down in worship of this false messiah. Or perhaps, Satan will only imitate the power of resurrection, deceiving the people into believing a lie. 

Whatever happens, the second beast, or false prophet, will cause the people to worship Antichrist. And, according to Daniel 3:11, all those who refuse to worship himwill be put to death. He will take that worship a step further, demanding that all people be marked with the symbol of the Antichrist.

16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. – Revelation 13:16-17 ESV

This mark will be a sign of ownership. Back in chapter 7, John was given a glimpse of the 144,000, the servants of God who had been chosen out of the people of Israel. These Jewish believers were given a mark on their forehead that designated them as belonging to God (see Revelation 7:3). And here in the second half of the tribulation, the false prophet will demand that all those who worship the Antichrist bear a sign of their allegiance to him. But all those who take the mark of the beast will do so willingly. It will allow them to buy and sell goods, providing them with certain rights and privileges that will be denied to all those without the mark. And we know from the next chapter, that there will be those who refuse to take the mark. But bearing the mark of God will prove to be dangerous and, ultimately, deadly. Many believers will be persecuted and die as a result of refusing to bear the mark of the beast and to bow down before him.

In this unholy trinity of Satan, the Antichrist and the false prophet, you have Satan’s attempt to replicate the persons and power of the holy trinity. Satan is making a futile attempt to set himself up as God, with the Antichrist serving as his false messiah or savior, and the false prophet acting as the Holy Spirit, influencing people to worship the resurrected Antichrist. But it is all a lie, a pathetic replication of the real thing. And God will allow it to happen, revealing man’s ongoing susceptibility to the lies of the enemy. Millions of people will willingly take on the mark of the beast. And John warns “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666” (Revelation 13:18 ESV). He is not telling us that we can somehow figure out who the Antichrist is or will be by carefully deducing the meaning of this number. It would appear that John is saying that no one will be able to discover the identity of the Antichrist until he appears. But those believers who are alive when the end times take place, will be able to discover this individual’s identity. Early on in the tribulation period, they will be given the ability to determine who this man is so that they might avoid his deceptions and escape his wrath.

But as bad as all this sounds and as difficult as these days are described to be, we must not lose sight of the fact that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit will all three be in full control of all that is going to happen in those days. Satan’s power, while formidable, is not comparable to that of God. Antichrist’s ability to provide for the needs of mankind, while significant, cannot compete with that of Jesus. And the false prophet, while highly influential, cannot begin to replicate the life-changing, Christ-honoring influence of the Holy Spirit. Satan and his forces will fail in their attempt to supplant God. All that he and his companions accomplish will take place only because God allows it to happen. They will be on a short leash, operating under the sovereign hand of God Almighty. And their power and influence will end when He deems it so.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson