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Revelation 13:11-18




Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs it was given to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth.

(verses 11-14)

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We’ve already met two vile creatures in these chapters.


The dragon, who “appeared in heaven” (Revelation 12:3), wages war against the forces of God – he is clearly identified as “the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9). He is followed by the “beast coming out of the sea” (Revelation 13:1), who receives the dragon’s power, throne, and great authority – this beast is visibly horrific, sporting ten horns and seven heads, each emblazoned with a blasphemous name. Clearly both are directly opposed to the Lord God Almighty.


Now, in this passage, we meet a second beast, this one having only two horns, seemingly less horrific. Does the fact that it is seen “coming out of the earth” make it also appear more familiar and somewhat less mysterious? Is its ploy to rely less on oppressive power and more on deceptive influence? Certainly, this beast seems to deliberately step into religious categories, seeking to imitate – or displace – the Sovereign Lord and his servants. It looks “like a lamb,” parodying the description of the exalted Christ, the Lion of Judah, who earlier was revealed to us as the Lamb. The beast’s “two horns” echo the two witnesses who “stand before the Lord of the earth” (Revelation 11:4) – that description, although not clear in our English translation, uses the same Greek word used to describe this beast’s exercise of authority “on … behalf” of the first. Again, imitation.


But what’s more, this second beast “performed great signs.”“Signs” is one of the key words used in John’s Gospel to describe the miracles of Jesus himself. The beast is employing deception. It even causes “fire to come down from heaven to the earth,” a power-filled demonstration like the firefall from heaven that consumed Elijah’s water-drenched offering on Mount Carmel. Further, it sets up an image for worship and then brings it to life by giving “breath” to it, copying the divine breath at Creation.


In so doing, the beast “deceived the inhabitants of the earth.” They are swayed by the signs, overwhelmed by the power, completely taken in. And so, they receive the mark of the beast on forehead or hand – a sign of allegiance and of ownership – in contrast to the seal the Lord himself has placed on the foreheads of his own servants.


Such deception will explode in all its evil magnitude before the end.But in the meantime, it operates even now, producing distraction, leading astray, competing for allegiance, displacing the object of true worship, the Lord God Almighty himself.


No wonder that no one can come to the Lord unless the Lord himself intervenes to call them. No wonder the exalted Christ is still passionate about his mission on earth – to seek and to save the lost. No wonder he calls us, his servants, to engage along with him – through prayer, through acts of service, through lives of devotion, through sacrificial giving, through testimony and proclamation.


And no wonder we need to keep our eyes steadily fixed on him so that we ourselves will not be led astray.

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Lord Jesus, keep my eyes on you. Keep me worshipping you only, with all my being. Keep me focused on your mission. Keep me abiding in your truth. To your glory.

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Refocus:

Is there any deceptive distraction dulling your own vision? Ask the Lord. If there is, confess it. Then, take time to focus afresh on Jesus himself.

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Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

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