REVELATION 13:11 (and identity of beast #2)
Adam Maarschalk: October 29, 2009
Scripture text for this study: Revelation 13:11-18
This is now the second post on Revelation 13. In the first post, which can be found HERE, we looked at the first 10 verses in this chapter. We saw that Nero fit the description of this beast in the specific sense, with his 42-month reign of persecution from November 64 – June 68 AD (vss. 5-7), with his death by the sword [even as he had used the sword to cause death] (verse 10), and with his demand for worship (vss. 4, 8). We also saw that first-century Rome fit the description of this beast in the general sense, with its identification as the fourth beast in Daniel’s similar vision (Daniel 7:1-8), and with the healing of the mortal wound suffered by one of its heads (vss. 1-3; cf. Rev. 17:7-10). In this post we will be introduced to its main advocate, a second beast.
A brief study on “the Antichrist”: This seems to be the first passage one thinks of when considering the person popularly known in American church culture as “the Antichrist.” Other passages which are rightly or wrongly said to speak of “the Antichrist” are II Thessalonians 2 (“the man of sin”), Daniel 9:24-27 (the 70 Weeks Prophecy), and Daniel 11:36ff. However, it’s most interesting to note that none of these passages even mention the term “Antichrist.” This term can only be found in two books, both written by John, but neither of them being the book of Revelation. Here are the passages where this term is found:  I John 2:18  I John 2:22  I John 4:3  II John 7.
In these passages, which hardly any Dispensationalist will go to in a discussion of the Antichrist, John makes the following points:  His readers had heard that “antichrist is coming.”  Many antichrists had come, indicating that it was the last hour (in John’s day).  Anyone who denies the Father and the Son, or that Jesus is the Christ, is “the antichrist.”  The “spirit of the antichrist” was in the world in John’s day, and was characterized as denying that Jesus is from God.  “The antichrist” is anyone who does not “confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” Such a person is a deceiver, and many such persons existed in John’s day.
B. The Beast from the Land—the Second Beast (Rev. 13:11-18)
Verses 11-12: We are now told of a second beast coming up “out of the earth.” Thus far in the book of Revelation it seems that references to “the earth” (or “land”) refer to the nation of Israel. Is this the case here?** Preterists are divided on this point, and on the identity of this second beast. There does seem to be consensus, though, that this second beast is one and the same with the “false prophet” spoken of in Rev. 16:13, 19:20, and 20:10. This second beast exercises the authority of the first beast (identified in the previous post as Nero). It does so “in its presence” (or “on its behalf,” as stated in a footnote in the ESV). It makes “the earth” (i.e. Israel) to worship the first beast. The following section will examine four different views regarding the identity of this second beast.
**[In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]
VIEW #1 (The Roman Concilia/”Cult of the Emperor”): Steve Gregg comments (pp. 292, 294), “The most frequently encountered view [among preterists] suggests that this beast is a symbol for ‘the cult of the emperor,’ that is, that organized force within the [1st century Roman] empire that sought to enforce the worship of the Caesars. The second beast’s two horns like a lamb (v. 11) suggest a religious nature more than a political one.” David S. Clark and Jay Adams hold to this position, as did Ray Summers in his 1951 book entitled Worthy is the Lamb (Nashville, TN: Broadman Publishing, pp. 174-175). Summers identified the second beast as the Roman Concilia, a government entity whose job it was in ancient times to regulate all details related to emperor worship. This entity had the authority to impose economic sanctions on individuals who would not prove their willingness to worship the emperor.
VIEW #2 (A Jewish Leader/Governor): J. Stewart Russell, on the other hand, believes this beast must be confined to Israel because it comes “out of the earth.” For him, the reason the second beast has only two horns in contrast with the 10 horns of the first beast is because of its smaller “sphere of government” (pp. 294, 296). Says Russell, “He can be no other than the Roman procurator or governor of Judea under Nero, and the particular outbreak must be sought at or near the outbreak of the Jewish war.” Russell points to Gessius Florus, who was hands down the worst and most oppressive governor of the Jewish province, ruling from 64-66 AD. Josephus says he was also the primary cause for the Jewish revolt which led to the Roman-Jewish War of 66-73 AD. Russell acknowledges that Josephus and other historians don’t specifically record that Gessius Florus enacted “compulsory enforcement of homage to the emperor’s statue and the ascension of miraculous pretensions” (which we see in verses 12-17). But he adds that “the image of the beast is clearly the statue of the emperor.” Russell also notes that we know historically that “the test by which the martyrs [of this period] were tried was to adore the emperor, to offer incense before his statue, and to invoke the gods” (Steve Gregg, p. 298).
VIEW #3 (Judaism and Jewish Leadership): A somewhat alternative view is taken up by David Chilton, who, according to Steve Gregg, sees the second beast as representing “the Jewish religious system and leadership collectively as a false agent of God.” Chilton says,
The Jewish leaders, symbolized by this Beast from the Land, joined forces with the Beast of Rome in an attempt to destroy the Church (Acts 4:24-28; 12:1-3; 13:8; 14:5; 17:5-8; 18:12-13; 21:11; 24:1-9; 25:2-3, 9, 24)… The Book of Acts records several instances of miracle-working Jewish false prophets who came into conflict with the Church (cf. Acts 8:9-24) and worked under Roman officials (cf. Acts 13:6-11); as Jesus foretold (Matt. 7:22-23), some of them even used His name in their incantations (Acts 19:13-16).
Not only did the religious leaders reject their true King, they also pledged their allegiance to Rome. The book of Acts also tells of both Jewish false prophets who performed signs and wonders (e.g. Simon the Magician, Acts 8:9-24) through magic, and of the allegiance between Rome and Jewish false prophets and leaders. Both of these come together in Acts 13:6-11, where a false prophet and magician named Bar-Jesus is with the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus, as well as Elymas the Magician. The role of the second beast was to point back to the first beast, working with the first beast against the Church. This is exactly what we see apostate Jewish leaders doing throughout the Gospels, and Acts. By the time of the Neronic persecution, this only intensified. So, just as the Roman Empire, under the rule of Nero, fits the description of the first beast, the apostate Jewish leaders who point away from the true King towards Rome and the Caesar fit into the description of the second beast. They were certainly “from the land,” worked in accordance with the Roman Empire, pledging allegiance to their “king,” and opposed the church. They also performed signs and wonders and were considered false prophets, just as the second beast is called throughout Revelation.
As noted in the previous post, even during the time of Christ, Israel as a nation had shown devotion to the Roman government (John 19:15 is probably the most blatant example). Kenneth Gentry also records that “since the times of Julius Caesar, Israel had benefited from certain special privileges from Rome that were not allowed to other of its subjects.” This included the ability of the Jews to gather freely for their special religious meetings, contrary to Roman policy (Josephus, Antiquities 14:10:8), and “to maintain its strict monotheism” (pp. 281-282). It’s quite likely that this relationship is what was symbolized by the harlot woman “sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns” (Rev. 17:3). The Jews enjoyed even more favor when Nero’s second wife, Poppaea Sabina, became intensely interested in Judaism.
Gentry adds, “The Jews responded to the favors of Rome…by offering ‘sacrifices twice every day for Caesar, and for the Roman people’” (Josephus, Wars 2:10:4; cf. Daniel 11:31, 12:11). This offering in honor of Caesar, however, was stopped in the summer of 66 AD, which Josephus says led to the Jewish-Roman War:
Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans: for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account: and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon.
VIEW #4 (Vitellius, Rome’s 9th Emperor): This is the view that I was personally leaning toward when I wrote a term paper a few months ago on Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. I now favor view #3 above, but I will post this excerpt anyway, especially because it says much about the level of worship that Nero demanded during his reign and the consequences for failing to do so. These details are excellent background, in any case, for Rev. 13:12-17. The excerpt which follows is taken from here:
Vitellius, the ninth emperor, [was very devoted] in his worship of Nero. It is said that he “greatly pleased the public by offering sacrifices to Nero’s spirit in the Campus Martius [Latin for Field of Mars, a 2 sq km public square in Rome], making all the priests and people attend.” These were his “funerary offerings to Nero” and this left “no doubt in anyone’s mind what model he chose for the government of the State” (Suetonius, Vitellius 11:2). The actions of Vitellius appear to fulfill what was written in Revelation 13:11-12 of a second beast, referred to later as the false prophet. This text states: “Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence [or on its behalf], and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.” Vitellius had such a rabid fascination with Nero that Vespasian had to “make a determined effort to check the growth of the Nero cult when he came to power.”
Paul Kroll (1999) writes the following about the prospect of Vitellius, or someone like him, fulfilling the role of the false prophet in Nero’s time:
The false prophet sends out a universal order to “set up an image in honor of the beast” (verse 14)… Strangely enough, the false prophet gives the inanimate image breath so that it can speak. Thus, the second beast has power to animate the image of the first beast. In the time Revelation was written, this was not an alien idea. The ancients believed that statues spoke and performed miracles. It was thought that the gods and demons used statues as conduits to communicate with humans and work miracles. For example, the heretic Simon Magus is said to have brought statues to life (Clementine Recognitions 3.47; Justin, Apologia 1.26; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.23). In ancient times, that was precisely the point of having idols. People thought that the life of the person or being was actually in the idol.
In their book, Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World (1999), the authors (Brown, Bowersock, Grabar) write about the common sight of images of Roman emperors in the third and fourth centuries. These images took prominent places throughout the empire and were literally worshipped. This was ordinary in the first century as well:
Those who beheld Constantine in his golden raiment were said by Eusebius to be “stunned and amazed by the sight—like children who have seen a frightening apparition.” But away from court and capital, emperors rarely appeared in person. In the provinces, their presence was represented by statues and other images. Municipal squares were dominated by imperial statues; the portraits of emperors hung in official buildings, shops, theaters, and public porticoes… In their range and variety, imperial images made emperors omnipresent…the crowd applauded not only the emperor but also his image as it was paraded around them, surrounded—like the emperor himself—by the imperial bodyguard… These mirror images of majesty not only made permanent the transitory messages of imperial ceremonial, but were designed to blur the distinction between emperors and their representations… [There was] a rigid insistence on the performance of the same rituals and ceremonies before imperial images as before the emperor himself. Those approaching an emperor’s statue were required to prostrate themselves “not as though they were looking at a picture, but upon the very face of the emperor.” A proper atmosphere of sanctity was to be maintained at all times (pp. 173-174).
As expected then, statues of Nero’s likeness already existed in the Roman Empire during his lifetime, even from early in his reign. In 55 AD, the second year of his reign, the Roman senate erected a statue of Nero in the Temple of Mars that stood between 110 and 120 feet high. “The emperor’s brow was crowned with rays, suggesting a comparison or identification with the Sun-god” (Kenneth Gentry, 2002). His portrait appeared on coins at the time as Apollo playing the lyre. “He appears with his head radiating the light of the sun on copper coins struck in Rome and at Lugdunum.” Even his mother, Agrippina, was hailed by provincial coins “as goddess and the parent of a god.” Inscriptions found in Ephesus called Nero “Almighty God” and “Savior,” and inscriptions found in Cyprus called him “God and Savior” (pp. 80-81). The behavior of the highly-revered Augustus Caesar (27 BC-14 AD) was very modest compared to the worship Nero demanded for himself. Dio Cassius writes of an incident in which a regional king was compelled to worship both Nero and his image. This occurred in 66 AD when Tiridates, King of Armenia, paid Nero a visit:
Indeed, the proceedings of the conference were not limited to mere conversations, but a lofty platform had been erected on which were set images of Nero, and in the presence of the Armenians, Parthians, and Romans Tiridates approached and paid them reverence; then, after sacrificing to them and calling them by laudatory names, he took off the diadem from his head and set it upon them…Tiridates publicly fell before Nero seated upon the rostra in the Forum: “Master, I am the descendant of Arsaces, brother of the kings Vologaesus and Pacorus, and thy slave. And I have come to thee, my god, to worship thee as I do Mithras. The destiny thou spinnest for me shall be mine; for thou art my Fortune and my Fate” (Gentry, p. 82).
“By this action this king actually worshiped ‘the image of the Beast’ (Rev. 13:15),” says Gentry. One senator, though, failed to worship Nero and his “Divine Voice,” and Dio Cassius records that he was executed: “Thrasaea was executed because he failed to appear regularly in the senate…and because he never would listen to the emperor’s singing and lyre-playing, nor sacrifice to Nero’s Divine Voice as did the rest.” Nero was even deified in Greece, where he spent a significant amount of time in 67 AD as a musician and actor in the Grecian festivals. There he was proclaimed as “Zeus, Our Liberator,” and his statue was set up in the temple of Apollo where he was called “The new Sun, illuminating the Hellenes.” When he returned to Rome in early 68 AD, the entire population was made to come out and greet him with these words: “Hail, Olympian Victor! Hail, Pythian Victor! Augustus! Augustus! Hail to Nero, our Hercules! Hail to Hero, our Apollo! The only Victor of the Grand Tour, the only one from the beginning of time! Augustus! Augustus! O, Divine Voice! Blessed are they that hear thee” (Gentry, p. 83).
Our study of Revelation 13 (Part 3 of 5) continues here.
All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.
 Futurists also tend to agree that the second beast functions in more of a religious role, while the first beast is political in nature.
 Edward Gibbon, a foremost authority on ancient Rome, asserts that Poppaea was one of the Jews’ “powerful advocates in the palace,” and that it was she who incited Nero to blame the Christians for the fire in Rome in July 64 AD. Source: Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1. Page 459. Modern Library, New York.