Shortly after deciding to follow Christ, I began to share my faith with my co-workers. One of them, named Larry, seemed to take an interest in what I had to say. In fact, he invited to play golf with him and eat dinner with his family that coming Saturday. I accepted and had a good time until the meal ended.
That is when I heard a knock on the door and found two missionaries from his church asking to share their faith with me. It was based on what they called the Book of Mormon. I thought they were kind to take an interest in me, but as they shared what they believed, my warm feelings were replaced by a scared feeling that made the hair on the back of my hair stand up. For this was a different Jesus than the one taught in the Bible. So I got out of there as fast as I could.
Did you know that there are many different spirits in the world? Spirits of false teaching. Spirits of fear. Ever walk down a dark street at night and feel a scary, evil presence? Spirits of rage. Spirits of lust. Spirits of blasphemy. The Bible says there are also many false teachers empowered by these spirits. To spot them, you need look no farther than the New Age Movement. So, John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (1 John 4:1-3) Aren’t you glad, in this world of confusing spirits and competing voices, that we who love Christ have been given the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us?
In our last lesson, we began to study what Bible teachers call the satanic trinity by examining the Antichrist in Revelation 13. In this lesson, John introduces us to the third member of the satanic trinity – the False Prophet who is, in a sense a second Antichrist. That’s why John calls him another beast (verse 11). The word means “another beast of the same kind,” indicating that his power and purpose will be identical to that of the first beast. He will possess the same charismatic personality and oratorical skills of the Antichrist and will demonstrate the same unswerving devotion to his father the devil. Let’s notice four facts about him:
BEAST #2: THE FALSE PROPHET
1. HIS ORIGIN
Unlike the first beast, who comes “out of the sea.” John says this second beast will come “out of the earth.” What is significant about that? The significance is tied to the meaning of the word “earth.” The word should be translated “Land,” referring to the Promised Land, the Holy Land, the Land of Israel. This is what would have immediately come to the minds of John’s readers. This also gives us a clue to the nationality of the False Prophet. He will be a Jew. Dr. Stanley Ellisen, my professor at Western Seminary, explained it like this in his book, The Biography of a Great Planet. The false prophet will be an “apostate Jew who (like Judas Iscariot) sells his soul to the devil as the henchman of Antichrist.”
Furthermore, John says he will have “two horns like a lamb,” but will “speak as a dragon.” Horns represent power – not political power in this case, since his horns are not crowned like those of the first beast – but religious and spiritual power. That’s why Revelation 19:20 calls him “the false prophet.” He looks like a lamb, counterfeiting the miracles of Jesus, God’s Lamb, who was empowered by the Holy Spirit, but inwardly he will be a wolf and speak like a devil.
Even now we see the groundwork for this person being laid. Groups like the World Council of Churches are hard at work trying to unite all religions into one. My uncle was one of the nicest, most religious you could have met. Religiously, he was a minister in the United Methodist Church. Theologically, he knew the Biblical terminology. But as chief staff officer for the United Methodist Church’s ecumenical movement, he unwittingly acted as a false prophet and helped to pave the way for Antichrist. For in traveling the world and working to unite all religions into one, something had to be left out, and what they chose to leave out was the exclusiveness of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6)
So, let no one deceive you. There are only two religious options in life. You can either follow the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior or you can reject Him and be allured by the spirit of Antichrist. There is no middle ground.
2. HIS MISSION
Verse 12 says he will possess the same of power as the first beast, but instead of using it to glorify himself, he will use it to make “the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast whose fatal wound had been healed.” Sound familiar? It should, for this is Lucifer’s effort to counterfeit the work of the Holy Spirit. Of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said He would not draw attention to Himself, but would glorify Christ and convict the world of their need for a Savior. Likewise, to establish a trinity of evil, Satan will raise up a False Prophet whose sole ambition will be to make the world worship the devil and his son (Antichrist).
3. HIS POWER
How will he succeed in deceiving a whole world of sinners? By using the supernatural powers that are given to him. Verse 13 explains, “He performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.”
The moment people see his amazing tricks, they will assume, “This man must be from God! After all, God is the One who does miracles!” That’s true if they are in keeping with His Word and His will. But the question people will fail to ask is, doesn’t Satan do miracles too? The answer is he can and will, if he can use them to keep people from following Jesus. Remember the magicians of Egypt who copied the miracles of Moses? 2 Corinthians 11 says that Satan is able to “transform himself into an angel of light” to deceive us.
So, be careful! Just because something is supernatural, doesn’t mean it is from God. In our area, there is an attractive spiritual teacher named J. Z. Knight, who claims to be the channel through whom Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old spirit speaks. Convinced this is a voice from God, her devotees pay up to $240,000 a month for her books, seminars, and audio tapes. But is this a spirit from God? The Bible gives us two ways to test her. First, we are to test her teaching. Do you believe that Jesus is the only Christ come in the flesh? (See 1 John 4:3) Ramtha’s answer is no, we all have the Christ spirit within us. That is to say, Jesus is not unique. The second test is character. If she is from God, she should be a model of Christ-like behavior. But is she? No, she and her husband created a major scandal by going through a notorious court battle over assets. Money is very important to her. Both are reminders that just because someone has a charismatic personality and claims to be from God, doesn’t make it so. Like the False Prophet to come, they could be energized by the spirit of Antichrist, not the Spirit of God.
But the False Prophet’s most impressive miracle will be the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:15. What is this abominable miracle?
Dr. Warren Wiersbe explains: “It is the image of the ‘beast,’ set up in the temple of Jerusalem. An idol is bad enough; but setting it up in the Temple is the height of all blasphemy. Since Satan could not command worship in heaven, he will go to the next best place—the Jewish Temple in the holy city.”
Why will this be so impressive to unbelievers? Because the image will appear to come to life. I don’t know how, but verse 15 says the False Prophet “will have power to give breath to the image of the beast,” so that it “even speaks.” This, you’ll recall, was the sign that man had become a living soul. God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7) You may wonder, “Does Satan the have power to give life?” No, Satan has no power except what God permits him. But apparently at this point in the Tribulation, man’s rebellion has become so intense that, as in Pharaoh’s case, God gives Lucifer the power to fully harden the hearts of unbelievers by performing miracles of unprecedented proportions.
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 explains, “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
4. HIS DEMANDS
Unlike the Holy Spirit, the False Prophet will not be a gentleman. The Holy Spirit gently woos man’s heart into loving Jesus. But not the False Prophet. He will trample on man’s free will and employ two methods to coerce his worship. First, he will give power to the beast’s image to kill those who refuse to worship it (verse 16). Second, he will employ strict economic measures denying the right to buy or sell to everyone but the beast’s followers. How will he maintain such tight control? Verse 16 adds, “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich or poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.”
Again, we see the stage being set for the fulfillment of this prophecy. No longer is cash the primary medium of exchange. Now the trend is debit cards. Nor is it any longer possible to do business without a Social Security number. I recall when our daughters were born, we were forced to obtain Social Security numbers for them. Otherwise, they weren’t counted as our dependents. In the marketplace, the scanner and universal product code are now the means of identification. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the first, middle, and last numbers of the bar code are 6-6-6. Should that cause us to panic and refuse to cooperate with the government? No. The fact is, Satan has always been the god of this world and is now working overtime to prepare the way for his detestable duo. But their coming is yet future. As we’ve learned in our earlier studies, they won’t appear until the church is taken out of the world and removed to heaven.
Someone may ask, “What’s the significance of the number 666?” That’s a question Christians have been asking for centuries. Recognizing that letters often stood for numbers in ancient times, Bible students have come up with all sorts of formulas for calculating “the number of his name.” At one time, it was Richard Nixon. Then it was George Bush. Next was Barack Obama. Now it’s Donald Trump. The problem is if you work at it hard enough, you can get almost any name to fit. Six is the number of man in the Bible, for that’s the day on which he was created – one number short of perfection, for seven is the number of God. Hence, 666 symbolizes man to the third power, a fitting symbol for the satanic trinity. For what will they use their powers do? To trick man into believing the serpent’s very first lie: “You will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5)
A COUNTERFEIT CHRIST
He was a charismatic personality. Ordained as a minister by the Disciples of Christ in 1964, he immediately began to demonstrate an intense concern for people in need. He began a health clinic for the poor, counseling services for ex-prisoners and juvenile delinquents, job training for the unemployed, rest homes for the elderly, college scholarships for the underprivileged, and fed over 1,000 people a day. His efforts won the applause of politicians and celebrities alike.
Then in 1973 things began to change. The pastor began to find fault with the government and organized religion. He also began to sow doubt in the Bible’s authority and the correctness of historic Christian beliefs. In their place, he inserted himself as the supreme authority.
Jean Mills remembers, “He took the Bible, threw it on the floor and shouted at God, ‘If there is a God in heaven, strike me dead…’ In 1973, he came out and said he wanted to be called ‘Father,’ and he wanted us to pray to him. He wanted us to carry his picture in our wallets…Up to that time, we loved him. We followed him because he was a neat guy…We would sit in his house and…joke with him. But in 1973 he turned into ‘Father’ and you couldn’t confront him anymore.”
Who was this bully and counterfeit Christ? Jim Jones, the man who led 800 adults and children to their deaths in the jungles of Guyana. How did he deceive them? At first, he appeared to be a loving savior, offering help and hope to all who came to him. But as time passed, his true colors were seen. He didn’t care about helping people; what he wanted was worship. He wanted to take the place of God Himself! And through fear, punishment, poverty, and isolation, that’s what he extracted from his followers, the end of which was death.
The same thing will be true when Satan takes possession of Antichrist – only then it will involve worldwide death. The man of peace will become the beast, and the second beast or False Prophet, will force the world to worship him.
Aren’t you thankful that you don’t have to be here for that day of judgment? You can overcome the spirit of Antichrist right now by taking Jesus as your Savior!