The False Prophet – 25
Have you ever been tricked? Have you heard of the term catfished? That’s when someone pretends to be someone, making someone believe they are that person, when in reality they are not. People will have whole online relationships that they think are real, but it’s with a completely different person than they thought they were talking to the whole time.
That’s kind of what we see in tonight’s text. We see another beast come on the scene, a false prophet. I want you to think of those two words false and prophet. This person has every semblance of being a prophet. And what is a prophet? A prophet is someone who speaks on behalf of God. But we put a qualifier before “prophet” when we mention him. Why? Because he is not a real prophet. He is false. He has many people believing him and believing the one he is speaking for, the antichrist. A prophet seeks to draw people to worship the one true God. This false prophet leads people astray from worshiping the one true God. We need to be able to tell the difference between the works of God and the works of Satan.
The false prophet will deceive. (vs 11) It had horns like a lamb but spoke like a dragon. “The word “lamb” appears 29 times in Revelation. Twenty-eight of those times it refers to Jesus.” Looks can be deceiving! The way he is described as a lamb with horns is similar to John’s description of Jesus in 5:6, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns.”
2 Corinthians 11:14-15 – 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…”
How could this false prophet look like Christ? Some people think this means that he will come from within the church or from within the Jewish people. Hear what Jesus says in Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Though this false prophet looks Christlike, the content of his words reveals his true nature. Remember the words of Jesus in Luke 6:45: “…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
The false prophet will speak for Satan. (vs 11) Instead of speaking for the one true God, as prophets are supposed to do, this false prophet speaks on behalf of Satan. “It spoke like a dragon.” Remember, the dragon is Satan. What does it mean to speak like Satan? Well, from the beginning, Satan twists God’s words and makes people doubt God’s character. The false prophet will belittle the true gospel.
Many people think that he will bring about a one-world religion. Can you imagine how this would sound? It would sound so good. It’s all about peace and love! Can’t everyone just get along?! This sounds good, but there is a major problem. All religions teach different things and even contrary things. They can’t all be true. The problem is, when don’t tell the truth about the truth, it is the most unloving thing we can do. For example, talk of sin in our culture is considered unloving and judgmental. Shouldn’t people be able to just live how they want to and in whatever way makes them happy? But when the real reality is that there is a completely holy God that will judge all people, it doesn’t matter how you want to live. It matters how he says to live. Just as it would be unloving for a doctor to tell a cancer patient that he doesn’t have cancer, it would be unloving for you to let a person who hasn’t been redeemed by Jesus to think they are ok in their sin.
I agree with what Jim Hamilton says about this verse:
“This passage is giving us fair warning: just because someone claims to be a Christian does not mean he or she is. Just because someone uses the language of Christianity does not mean or she is promoting Christianity. Just because someone looks like Jesus does not mean he or she genuinely represents him. We must know what Christianity really is from the Bible so that we can see past the surface level of Christianity to discern whether what we see is the real thing or a satanic deception.”
The false prophet will encourage false worship. (vs 12) Where true prophets of God call people to repent for their idolatry and worship the one true God, this false prophet encourages idolatry and worship of the antichrist. In those days, leaders of governments were considered divine and sought worship from those they ruled, even erecting temples for themselves. Likewise, Nero, the emperor of Rome considered himself a deity, and many believed in what they called Nero redividus, a myth that either Nero would come back to life or that he never actually died (like Tupac and Elvis) and that he would come back to seize power.
When thinking of the antichrist in the specific context in which John’s audience would have been hearing this, they most likely associated the antichrist with Nero. This doesn’t mean that all this persecution and talk of the antichrist is just something that happened in the past. I think it means that Nero is a prototype of a specific person who will arise in the future. 1 John 2:18 tells us that there have been many antichrists.
Hear how evil Nero was so that you can get a picture of how evil the antichrist will be. Nero was so evil he murdered his mom for opposing an affair he was having. During the great fire of Rome, he played his harp and sang as the city burned. He then blamed the burning of Rome on Christians and brought about the first large wave of persecution against Christians. He would sew skins of wild beasts on them and have wild dogs attack them until they died. He would have some wear shirts of wax, tie them to the trees in his gardens, and set them on fire in order to illuminate his garden. Through his persecution is how both Peter and Paul were killed. The false prophet will lead people to worship this type of leader, the antichrist. But how will he do it?
The false prophet will deceive with miracles. (vss 13-15) One of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament is Elijah. There’s a story I love from 1 Kings 18 where Elijah taunts the prophets of Baal. There are 450 prophets of Baal (a false god), and there is one Elijah (prophet of the one true God). Elijah challenges them to take a bull, put it on some wood, and call to their god to send fire to consume the sacrifice. They call out, and nothing happens. They keep calling out and even cut themselves, yet nothing happens (1 Kg 18:28-29). Part of what I love about this passage is that Elijah starts mocking them. He knows that their god isn’t real and that he serves the one true God. He starts mocking them, telling them to cry louder, that maybe their god is either on a trip, asleep, or going potty (1 Kg 18:27). After hours of doing this with no answer, Elijah had them dump water all over and around his bull. And now hear what happened.
1 Kings 18:36-39 – 36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
Where fire from heaven was a sign that Elijah was a true prophet, this false prophet will have similar signs. And even more miraculously, where the prophets of Baal couldn’t get a response from their false god, this false prophet will make an idol of the antichrist, and this image of him will speak. So, all those who wouldn’t worship him because of their skepticism, this will remove every ounce of doubt they have, and they will worship the antichrist.
Hear what one commentator says:
“The second beast copies God’s ways (v. 13). Jesus worked great and miraculous signs (John 2:11, 23; 20:30); so does the beast. People are too quick to believe when they see something out of the ordinary (v. 14), forgetting that Jesus warned us that false prophets would arise who could do great signs and miracles (Matt. 24:24). Paul told us that the “lawless one” will also do them (2 Thess. 2:9–10).”
Those who follow Jesus will be persecuted. (vs 15) Just like Nero had so many Christians killed in the first large wave of persecution of the church, so will it be for all those who don’t worship the antichrist. It will be like in Daniel’s day when everyone who didn’t bow down to the idol of Nebuchadnezzar would be thrown into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:16-28). This is a religious move, but it is also a political one. Remember we saw last week that one way Satan advances his kingdom is through governments.
“The second beast orders that an image of the first beast be set up and worshiped, in clear violation of God’s commands (Exod. 20:3–4). As in Daniel’s day (Dan. 3:5–6), those who refuse to worship political, economic, and secular power will be killed (Rev. 13:15). Just as God marked out his own by putting a seal on their foreheads (7:2–8; 9:4), so the mark of the beast is put on those who reject God (13:16; 14:9, 11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).”
Non-Christians will receive a mark that shows they follow the antichrist. (vss 16-18) Though this mark is forced, it is not mandatory. Danny Akin says, “It is clear from this passage that no one will receive it unknowingly. All will know exactly what they are doing. Believers will face economic boycott and social alienation in that day.”I know what you are thinking. What is the mark of the beast going to be? Is it going to be a tattoo? Is it going to be a microchip implanted in your hand? I don’t know. What I do know is that you will purposefully have to get it, it will set you apart as a follow of Christ or not, and you won’t be able to do anything without it.
The two main things commentators say about the number 666 is that 1) The number six was seen as imperfect, while the number seven was seen as perfection. And that it’s stated three times shows that it is wholly imperfect. Though it has power, it is incomplete power. 2) In the Hebrew language there are not separate symbols for letters and numbers. Letters could be added up to make numbers. The name “Nero Caesar” transliterated from Greek to Hebrew equals 666 when added up. Verse 18 does tell us that the number of the best is the number of a man. In 14:11, it calls this mark, “the mark of its name.” So, whatever it is, it will align everyone either with the antichrist or against him. And those who don’t get this mark will be punished.
Now, the original audience would have read this out loud all in one setting. They wouldn’t have stopped at these verses, but they would have continued right along into chapter 14. When you do that, you see at the beginning of the next chapter that those who belong to Christ have a different seal than those who follow the beast. They have the Father’s name written on their foreheads (Rev 14:1), and they stand with the true Lamb Mount Zion, Jesus Christ who was slain for us. Then we see those who have the mark of the beast drink the full cup of God’s wrath (Rev 14:9-11).
Those who belong to Jesus are sealed and vindicated forever.
No matter how bad things get, Jesus wins. Satan counterfeits the gospel. Do you know the real thing from the fake? When something looks Christian but leads you to worship unbiblically, can you tell the difference? Are you willing to forsake all to follow Jesus? Do you belong to Jesus?
 Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 231.
 James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 270; Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Ada, MI: Baker, 1989).
 Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 270.
 John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (New Kinsington, PA: Whitaker House, 1981), 3.
 Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 223; Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 257; G. K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2015), 270; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997), 248.
 Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 12. “Many there were of the Christians in those days, who, seeing the filthy abominations and intolerable cruelty of Nero, thought that he was antichrist.”
 http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/actspeter.html; https://seanmcdowell.org/blog/was-peter-crucified-upside-down
 Tertullian, Scorpiace 15:4; The Prescription Against Heretics 36.
 Elwell, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible.
 Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 235.
 Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 275.