Why two different beasts?
According to Revelation 13, the influence of the beast seems to fade at some point. Why would a second beast need to appear, and make an image of the first beast, if the first beast was still in charge? Daniel and Revelation make sense if:
It appears that "The Beast" (Daniel's fourth beast) represents a world-conquering power: Rome. After a time the world is no longer dominated by a single power (the ten toes or horns have power). But right at the end, at the battle of Amageddon, the world once again has one power, and hence the beast features again.
See also: the Beast | more about the Beast | a history of the world
|The importance of the second Beast|
Daniel and John said that Rome's "ten horn" children would exist until the end of this world. But the world today is not like the world immediately after Rome. It hasn't been the same for centuries. There was this little thing called the Renaissance, and the decline of the old monarchies. Then we have the modern period - like ancient Rome, yet so unlike it.
So, what has Revelation to say about that? Quite a lot, actually.
After telling us of the evils of the Beast, revelation 13:10 tells us not to give up hope. Yes, the beast is leads into captivity and kills by the sword, but he will eventually be destroyed in the same manner. But verse 11, however, warns us to be extra careful. When the first beast goes, the second beast seems to be like Christ, but it is actually just as bad as the first beast!
The "second Beast" symbolises the descendants of Rome since the Renaissance just perfectly. Let us recall some basic history and see just how accurate the prophecy is:
European history in a nutshell:
When Rome broke up, the "known" world was made up of nations ruled from the top by kings who claimed their authority on religious grounds. They were loosely held together by the medieval church. This constituted the "Dark Ages", during which there was little technological advance.
However, with the rediscovery of Greek and Roman texts a renaissance of learning developed. Gradually a new kind of kingdom emerged - ruled by an elite with some kind of democracy, claiming its authority from the people. Some still paid lip service to the Catholic church , but many had a Protestant religion as the state church. The emphasis was on human enquiry rather than dogma, and technology flourished.
Right: Renaissance architecture - idolising the Roman style
Comparing the first and second Beasts:
(like Rome, but pretends to be like the lamb - makes an image to Rome)
(Before the decline of the empire)
the ten horns
(After the decline of the empire)
Philosophy: Religion Humanism Economic base: Empire Feudalism Trade Basis of political sovereignty: God (or gods) The state (a contract with citizens) Main form of Christianity: Catholicism Protestantism
(mainly based on Catholic ideas - e.g. no new scripture)
Culture (art and architecture): Roman Developed from Roman - ended with the Gothic style Went back a thousand years to imitate Roman - the "Renaissance" style. All later styles developed from this.
On the surface the new "modern" nations are far better than the old kind, but as some people observe, the technological advancements simply give more efficient ways to destroy people, whether in the "Dark Satanic mills", in the Third World serving the rich world, or through modern warfare and pollution.
The image of the first beast
What does the word for image, "Eikon", mean? Some other uses of the word might make the context more clear:
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."
1 Corinthians 15:49
"And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
2 Corinthians 3:18
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect."
|For how the second beast (modern western civilization) made the world into the image of the first beast (ancient western civilization), see a history of the world.|
The choice is: do we have the image of Christ, or the image of the Devil? Today's modern western nations are built after the image of Rome:
- A foundation in "classical" education - based on Greek philosophy.
- Their power is based on the ability to make war (might is right)
- They live by feeding off weaker nations (just ask any foreign aid worker)
- They love money...
- ...and pleasure for its own sake.
Kingdoms for the last two thousand years have been in the shadow of Rome - from the Roman church to the "Holy Roman Empire", from the Russian Czar and German Kaiser (both variants on "Caesar"), even to the European Union founded on the "treaty of Rome". And even the great buildings draw on Roman architecture.
|When a great power is described as an individual|
Revelation 16:13 and 19:20 refer to a "false prophet". The work of the second Beast, after all, was to deceive people and promote the message of the Beast, telling people what they want to hear. So John lumps together all the modern nations that teach the values of ancient Greece and Rome. He describes them all as a false prophet - how very appropriate.
Even though Beasts always represent kingdoms (or groups of kingdoms), we should not be surprised that John refers to the second Beast as if it were an individual, a "false prophet". Indeed, we should expect it if we are familiar with our prophecies. (For more examples of nations being compared with individuals, see the discussion of Daniel chapter 11).
The Roman Empire as an individual
The early saints understood that an empire could be described as an individual - see the commentary on "that which withholdest" in William Smith's Bible Dictionary. (Click here for 160k scan of the relevant page)
Babylon as an individual
Revelation 13 to 14 describes the rise and fall of the Beast. Isaiah 14 also described the fall of the Beast. In John's day, the Beast was Rome. In Isaiah's day the Beast was Babylon (see Daniel chapters 2 and 7 for details). In Isaiah 14 the Beast, the Babylonian empire, is called Lucifer. (Isaiah, like John in Revelation 12, uses the parallel to teach us something about what happened in heaven).
|Isaiah's Beast in the last days||John's Beast in the last days|
|has a capital city called Babylon||has a capital city called Babylon|
|ruled the nations (Isaiah 14:6)||ruled the nations (Revelation 13:7)|
|is compared with Lucifer, fallen from heaven (Isaiah 14:12)||is an instrument of Satan, fallen from heaven (Revelation 12:9; 12:17-13:1)|
|tried to be like God (Isaiah 14:13-14)||tried to be like God (Revelation 13:4-6)|
|will be brought down to hell, the pit (Isaiah 14:15)||will be brought down to hell, the pit (Revelation 19:20)|
|followers killed; land occupied by birds (Isaiah 14:21-23)||followers killed; eaten by birds (Revelation 19:21)|
|the empire is called Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12)||the empire that serves him is called a false prophet (Revelation 19:20)|
Since the Beast is referred to as Lucifer, nothing could be more fitting than for the second Beast, which has the authority of the first Beast, and causes the world to worship the first Beast, to be referred to as the false prophet. Of course, nobody is pretending that the Isaiah referred to a literal human being - he was talking about a mighty empire that had absorbed other empires. Likewise, nobody should assume that "the false prophet" refers to a mortal man.
Why do people ignore the second Beast?
The reason why people often ignore the second Beast, or pretend he is just a mortal, is not hard to see. Most non-religious commentaries refuse to believe that John foresaw world history. And most religious commentaries on "the Beast" are from Protestant sources. It is convenient to see Roman Catholicism as somehow involved with "the Beast". But when we admit the obvious, that the Renaissance and accompanying religious revivals inherited the religion of the previous era, Protestantism does not come out too well. Although it corrected some of the worst excesses of Catholicism, it held to the basic premise - that there could be no more scripture. Hence it created an image to worship that, to all intents and purposes, was not so different from what went before.
Perhaps we can go even further. Perhaps my assumption that "fire from heaven" referred to technology is wrong. Perhaps it refers to the Protestant claim (particularly among the reformers and today's charismatic sects) that they have the Gifts of the Spirit as in the day of Pentecost. I do not wish to offend my Protestant friends any more than I have, so will not go further. It is only a suggestion...
|How the Beast does its evil|
Who is hurt by the Beast?
Throughout history, there have been those who have benefited from the Greek/Roman style kingdoms, and those who have not. Those who benefit are the official citizens, particularly those with money. Those who suffer are the underclass, the ones who work, but either are unwilling or unable to join the system.
In Greek and Roman times, the comfort of the citizens relied on the work of the slaves. In Medieval times, the comfort of the landowners relied on the work of the peasants. In the industrial revolution, the comfort of the wealthy relied on the sweat of those in the "Dark Satanic Mills".
In the modern "developed" world, we rely on raw materials from the "underdeveloped" world. Even if we didn't buy from them, they are part of the world economy. If they cannot compete on our terms, then that is their problem. It is the ultimate Greek and Roman ideal: the strong prosper, and the weak die.
So how does the Beast kill people?
So how does the modern Greek/Roman based world kill people? Just look at the global mortality rates. Famine, disease, war, they have one thing in common: money. When money is desperately short, people are more likely to go hungry, go to war, be unable to fight diseases. Losing out in the money economy is what kills the most people: not being part of the Beast.
Christians are a little different - they choose to not be part of the Beast. To reject the image of the Beast. But the more you reject it, the less you fit in. The more you risk being unable to earn a living. The more you rely on those parts of the modern world that have not entirely succumbed to the enticing of the Greek/Roman ideal, but still remember something of what Christ taught. If this is sounding like a political plea for the welfare state, perhaps it is - but a welfare state based on what Christ teaches, not on any man-made theories.
What is the alternative to the Beast?
Many people (including capitalists) moan about the evils of the capitalist economy. But who has a credible alternative? The church of Jesus Christ does. It does more than say "love one another". It backs it up with sacred covenants to share - see for example the early chapters of Acts. The law of consecration of property is a system of sharing. It is not communism, because individuals receive a stewardship of private property. It is not a command economy, although authority (once voted on) is respected. There is not time to cover it in detail (another web site is being prepared!) but suffice to say that it is the only real alternative to capitalism. Does your church does teach the New Testament law of consecration?
the bottom line
John foresaw the Renaissance, and after. He saw our world!