When reading Revelation, we should focus on the general sense of each vision, and get that first. Who is the main character? Who does it represent? How does it fit with what God is doing? Once we understand the main character, the rest of the vision will become clear.

When reading revelation, we should look at one vision at a time, not verse by verse. A vision usually begins with John saying, "Then I saw", or "An angel showed me...", or similar words.

When looking at a vision, we should ask who is the main character or event. What is the vision telling us about that character or event? For example, Revelation 12 is about a woman. The moon and stars point back to Josephs dreams, which indicates that the woman is Israel.

Once the main character/event is known, we can ask what the passage tells us about them. Only once we have the general theme should we go on to the detail. The detail will become clearer when we understand who/what it is about.

For example, the wilderness in Revelation 12 is symbolic. It is not a real wilderness in a particular place. It represents a place of purification for the children of Israel.

False Prophet

We should not interpret the Mark of the Beast in isolation from the rest of the vision. The first step is to identify the two main characters. They are the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth.

The Beast from the Sea is the Roman Empire (Rev 13:1-10). John is warned that the empire will die, but it will eventually come back to life in a new democratic empire. The explanation of how it comes to power is given in the next vision (Rev 13:11-18). The key to understanding the vision is to identify the Beast from the Earth. John calls this beast the "False Prophet".

This beast from the earth looked like a lamb but spoke like a dragon.

Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed (Rev 13:11-13).

This beast had "two horns like a lamb". The two horns signify enormous worldly power, but there is an interesting twist. In Revelation, the lamb is Jesus, so it appears to represent Jesus. However, it speaks like a dragon. This shows that it is actually working for the devil. John saw a lamb-like animal doing the devil's work. This second beast will carry on in the role of the Roman Empire, but it will seem to represent Jesus. The beast with horns like a lamb represents a Christian organisation that exercises control over much of the world in a similar way to the Roman Empire. John was seeing the emergence of Christendom as a unifying force in the world.

When the Rome Empire collapsed, the world broke up into numerous principalities, kingdom and feudal fiefdoms that each did their own thing. However, another worldwide organisation emerged in the place of Rome. While under Roman protection, the church had morphed into a huge and powerful organisation. When the empire fell away, the church quickly stepped into the gap and began using force and coercion to maintain order on earth.

The church became the strongest advocate for political power. This was a strange role for the church, because Jesus had refused to use force and coercion to establish his Kingdom. For the first few hundred years, his people followed his example, and many paid the price with their lives. However, when persecution ended and the church became part of the political power system, it moved quickly from service and suffering to reliance on power and control.

This beast represents the emergence of the church at the centre of political power. The church became the most powerful and most pervasive organisation in the world, so it is correct to say that it "exercised all of the authority of the first beast. The season when the church held political power lasted for the next ten centuries

The church achieved a great deal by using political power, but this beast is described as a "false prophet" in Revelation 19:20, because it led God's people in the wrong direction. The structure and control of human bureaucracy replaced the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit.

Image of the Beast

The emergence of humanism weakened the influence of Christendom, but the second beast did not die. Instead, it emerged in a new form.

He ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed (Rev 3:14,15).

The false prophet sets up an image of a beast. This not a real beast, but it does look like the beast. The image of the beast will eventually be greater than the Roman Empire and its power will extend far beyond any previous empire. This beast is a democratic empire

The source of this beast's power will be totally different from those that went before. The Roman Empire was a military empire, sustained by the ruthless force of the Roman legions. Anyone who opposed the empire would be forced to submit with ruthless violence. The new empire will get its power in a different way. Instead of being conquered by force, the people of the world will freely surrender to this new empire.

He deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived (Rev 13:14).

The people of the world will be deceived into serving the image of the beast. They will freely submit to a democratic empire, because it offers all of the benefits of previous empires and seems to be good.

Prophets speak to kings and warn them about their mistakes. False prophets have faith in political power, so they encourage it, rather than challenging it. This false prophet encourages the people of the world to trust in political power. When the ultimate Democratic Empire is taking power, the church will declare that God is blessing this move. Although the new empire relies on human wisdom and power, the church will declare that God is using this good political power to bring in his kingdom.

The main achievement (harmful) of the false prophet is to make the church comfortable with political power.

Political powers welcome the support of the church, because she legitimised their demands for greater political power. With her support, they gained power to manage life in a way that earlier empires could only dream about. Previous political empires forced people to worship the emperor. This empire is different, because it is supported by the church. People will believe that they are serving God when they honour the Beast.

The new Democratic Beast deceived all the peoples of the earth (Rev 13:14). Anyone who refuses to honour the Democratic Empire will be destroyed (Rev 13:15).

This beast works through political spirits that are controlled by a Cosmos Dominator spirit called "Beast".

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