It is clear in prophetic scripture that Satan will have two great instruments of evil on the earth in the tribulation period at the end of this age. The dragon and his angels will have been kicked out of heaven, down to the earth. Satan comes down with great wrath, for he knows his time is short (Rev. 12). From this point forward, he does everything he can against God and Jesus Christ to hold on to his throne and title of god and prince of this world. For this reason, he brings forth the two beasts of Revelation thirteen (Rev. 13). There is no doubt that one of the two beasts has as its head the Antichrist.
Let us shape the context of this chapter a little, so we know some of the prophetic symbolism we are dealing with. A beast represents a great world power. It is something that has some extent of governmental authority and civil power. The figure of a beast is used in Daniel’s prophecies, especially in Dan. 7, where the prophet has a vision of four different beasts coming out of the great sea. Here the four beasts represent, in historical succession, the four Gentile world empires – Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The Spirit of God uses this symbol to depict not only the fact of the existence of these four Gentile empires in time, but also certain character traits – a beast goes its own way, and does its own will, and ignores any obedience to the will of God. The great sea which the beasts come out of represents the unformed and unorganized masses of the Gentiles.
The first beast is seen by John rising out of the sea (Rev. 13:1). This corresponds to the fourth beast Daniel saw in his vision (Dan. 7:7), and represents the Roman empire. Daniel’s vision represents not only what this empire was when Jesus first came to Israel, but what it will be in the future before Jesus returns. We call this future form the revived Roman empire. John’s vision in Revelation thirteen is entirely of this future revived form of the empire, referring to the second half of the future tribulation.
It is significant that Daniel’s vision of the Roman beast connects this Gentile world empire with the two comings of Jesus Christ. When He walked on the earth, the head of the beast was a Caesar – a civil, governmental authority, who is worshiped by others as a god. We remember Jesus saying, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” We can assume that the head of the empire’s revived form at the end will also be a Caesar.
But the question of our article is, will this last Caesar also be the antichrist? John’s epistles are the only place in scripture where the Antichrist is referred to directly by this title. When we see John’s passages we can’t help but thinking the antichrist is a religious figure. And when we look closely, the character of the passages descriptive of antichrist express the denial of the foundational tenants and principles of Christianity.
I John 2:22 (NKJV)
“who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”
I John 4:3 (NKJV)
“and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” (See also II John 1:7)
These passages express anti-Christian beliefs; they express heretical and apostate activity against the person and glory of Jesus Christ. But also, they imply a denial of Jesus Christ common and necessary to the Jews and Judaism. There should be no question in our minds where the Antichrist will come from – he will be Jewish and come from among the Jews. Also, we find Jesus saying this to the Jews in John’s gospel, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.” (John 5:43) We can’t help thinking He is referring to the Antichrist, who will eventually come to the Jews and deceive them as a false Messiah. This verse also implies how most of the nation of Israel, at least that which is in and around Palestine, will be deceived and follow after him. The deceptions from false christs and false prophets at that time will be so great, that if possible, it would deceive even the elect Jewish remnant (Matt. 24:22-24). But this is impossible, for God keeps and preserves them by His sovereign power and grace.
If we look at the second beast of Revelation thirteen, he has more Jewish characteristics than does the first (Rev. 13:11-18). The Roman beast rises out of the sea (Rev. 13:1), out of the unformed masses of the Gentiles. All four of Daniel’s beasts, coming out of the sea, are of Gentile origin, and their heads or leaders would all be Gentile (Dan. 7:2-3). However, the second beast of Revelation thirteen comes up out of the earth:
Rev. 13:11 (NKJV)
“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb, and spoke like a dragon.”
This refers to the prophetic earth which centers on Israel. Judaism is God’s religion of the earth. The Jews are God’s earthly people, and they have God’s earthly calling. Judaism is the vine of the earth referred to later in this book (Rev. 14:19). Then in the above verse we have another characteristic – the second beast looks like a lamb, although his speech is like a dragon. Jesus is the true Lamb of God. Wouldn’t you expect the Antichrist to imitate Christ and be a false messiah in order to deceive the Jews? Are not the Jews still looking for Messiah to come to them? Isn’t this how they will be deceived by a false Messiah?
When Paul speaks of the man of sin, who will come on the scene after the great apostasy in Christendom at the end of this age (II Thess. 2:3), he describes him as the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders (II Thess. 2:9). Except for the word “lying”, these are the same words Peter uses to describe the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22). The future Antichrist will be a false Messiah, and a false king in Palestine. If we want to see the precursor to this, we have the false king in Judah when Jesus came at first – king Herod. The second coming of Christ will see the same – a Roman empire with its last Caesar, and a false king in the east, in Judea (Antichrist). But just as king Herod was subservient to the Roman empire and its Caesar, so will the second beast of Revelation thirteen be subservient to the first (Rev. 13:12, 14). Both have power from the dragon, but it is the Roman beast that is given Satan’s throne of this world. The Antichrist will support the Caesar through religious power, even calling fire down from heaven like Elijah on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18:21-39, Rev. 13:13). Elijah’s miracle was the proof that Jehovah was the God of Israel, and he was Jehovah’s prophet. The Antichrist doing the same will have, I am sure, a similar, but deceiving effect among the Jews in the future tribulation. He will turn them to idolatry, and their state will be seven times worse than their first (Matt.12:43-45).
In summary, we have then the fact as to the history of the latter days, that there are two beasts or manifestations of power united in their operations, but at the same time the two powers being very distinct; each of them amazingly important in the place they hold, though one of the two is distinctively on the throne of the prince of this world (Rev. 13:2). Whatever title they may hold, these are the two beasts and instruments of evil Satan brings forth in the tribulation. I speak of this, because in some passages, and in our minds in reflecting on the course of evil in this present age, the general character may be presented, yet we easily forget that there are certainly and historically, two vessels of evil power: one having the public authority and a certain blasphemous character (Rev. 13:5-6); the other, in whom is the energy of seduction and deception, which acts and produces the effect on men (Rev. 13:12), in subservience to the throne and public power. I believe the scriptural evidence indicates there is a Caesar at the head of the Roman beast, while the Antichrist is the head of the second beast.