Revelation 13:18

Sermon preached on May 21, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A few years ago I found a great combination wallet/case for the iPhone. I ordered one directly from the company for my daughter Patricia. She loved it. About a year later I decided to buy one for myself. When I did a search for it I found better price on a third party web site than from the companying who made it. It stated that it was the genuine article made by the original company. So I ordered one. When it arrived it seemed to be just what I wanted. But awhile later I got an email from the web site where I bought it telling me that the wallet case I bought had been removed from their list because of fraud. When my daughter Patricia visited sometime later we compared cases I could see that mine was different. It wasn't nearly as nice and the quality of the workmanship was noticeably inferior. She had the genuine article and I didn't. I got ripped off.

Getting something that is a fake when you're expecting the real thing is a big disappointment. If you buy an iPhone from Apple they will include a charging adaptor with it. It's a very good adapter designed to protect your phone and to prevent fires. Some online sites have what they claim are Apple made adapters at a fraction of the price that Apple charges. They are the same size and the same color and they claim that they're made by Apple. From outward appearances they seem to be the genuine article, they're just cheaper. They problem is that they're not made by Apple and some of them aren't well made and when used some have melted or caught on fire. Inside they don't have the proper electronics. With chargers you want the genuine article—you don't want to ruin your phone or burn down your house.

Rolex watches are among the most prestigious watches in the world. I've heard of companies rewarding very productive employees with a Rolex. When I was growing up I heard of companies giving a Rolex to a particularly valued employee on his retirement. One of the problems Rolex is facing in that other companies make fake Rolex watches. Not so long ago it was relatively easy to spot a fake. But today some of the fakes have gotten so good in looks that it's very hard to tell a fake from the genuine article. Many people have been fooled and have been swindled out of their money.

George C. Parker (1860–1936) was a con man who made a lot of money by selling of property he did not own. He sold many of New York's public landmarks to unsuspecting immigrants. He even sold the Brooklyn Bridge several times, which prompted the rise of the familiar saying,

"If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.”

Parker would tell the potential buyers of the Brooklyn Bridge that if they bought the bridge they could erect toll booths on it and make a lot of money. I read that there were several buyers paid Parker and then hired construction crews to erect the tool booths. When they started to build the toll booths the workers had to be stopped by the police.

But the saddest of all frauds are the ones that Satan pulls on unsuspecting human beings. Eve was his first target. He promised her that if she and Adam ate the forbidden fruit that they would become like God, that they would be better off. It was a lie. He led Eve astray. He led her into misery. Satan's lies has continued throughout history. He seeks to deceive and destroy people. To do so he pretends to be God, he parodies God—he promises people good things but he doesn't deliver. He's a fake, a liar. When he tempted Jesus he showed Him all the kingdoms of the earth and told Jesus he would give them to Him if He bowed down and worshiped him. But he didn't own all the kingdoms of the earth. He's a usurper. He's a liar, he doesn't deliver what he promises.

Scams are all around us—telephone scams, pyramid scams, charity scams, computer scams. In today's society you really have to be careful.

But those scams pale in comparison to the greatest scam of all, the one detailed in Revelation 13—the scam of the dragon, the beast from the sea and the beast out of the earth. Many commentators have noted that the dragon, the beast out of the sea and the beast from the land form a competing trinity with the real Trinity— the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The trinity of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet is a parody, a perversion.

It's noteworthy that Revelation 13 is patterned on parts of the book of Daniel. Three of the reoccurring patterns of Daniel that are repeated in Revelation are:

1) An agent steps forward.2) Power is given to this agent3) The effect of this power is described.

    We see this with the Son of Man in Daniel 7. The Son of Man steps forward to God's throne. (verse 13) He is given authority. The effect of this authority is that 'all peoples, nations, and tongues serve him' and that he possesses an eternal kingdom.

    We also see it in both beasts in Revelation 13. In verse 1 we see the first beast coming out of the sea. Verse 2 tells us that the dragon gives the beast his power, his throne and his authority. We know that the Son receives authority from the Father, so the sea beast receives authority from the dragon. We know that Jesus died and rose again. So too, the beast from the sea seemed to have a fatal wound, but the fatal wound was healed. The result was the whole world followed the beast. The beast blasphemed God and all the inhabitants of the earth worshipped the beast.

    The second beast, the beast from the earth, exercised authority on behalf of the first beast. Verse 12 tells us that the second beast made the earth and all its inhabitants worship the first beast. The second beast glorifies the first beast. Again, this mimics the Trinity, as the Spirit glorifies the Son. As Jesus said of the Spirit in John 16:14,

    "He will bring glory to me
    by taking from what is mine
    and making it known to you."

    As the Spirit glorifies the Son, so the second beast glorifies the first beast. He deceives the inhabitants of the earth and ordered them to set up an image in honor of the first beast. (verse 15) He was given power to give breath to the first beast so that he could kill all who refused to worship his image. The second beast also forced everyone to receive the mark of the beast. If anyone didn't have this mark they were unable to buy or sell.

    G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation: NIGTC, p. 729)

    "the parody in Daniel and especially Revelation is that… the Satanic beasts appear to feign the truth successfully in their attempts to deceive…"

    Revelation 13 describes some of the most horrific things that will ever happen on the face of the earth. It's about deception on a world-wide scale. This fake, unholy trinity makes war on the saints and to conquer them. Christians are persecuted and killed on a mass scale. In order to buy or sell people have to have the mark of the beast. In verse 18 we came to the second warning of chapter 13 to Christians. It reads,

    "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."

    The text before us is a warning to human beings not to be fooled by Satan and the two beasts. The great lesson for us here is that as a Christian

    you must be discerning.

    In his commentary on Revelation G. K. Beale entitles this section as,

    "Genuine believers are exhorted to discern true from false worship in order to preserve their faith."

    You need to be able to discern what is from God and what is from the devil. The devil mimics God is some ways. He has great power. He is the one that gives power and authority to the two beasts. The first beast receives an apparent fatal wound but is healed. He makes war on the saints and conquers them. The beast from the sea performs great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down heaven. The Holy Spirit's warning to us here is similar to what Paul wrote about the lawless one in 2 Thessalonians 2:9–10.

    "The coming of the lawless one
    will be in accordance with
    the work of Satan displayed
    in all kinds of counterfeit miracles,
    signs and wonders,
    and in every sort of evil
    that deceives those who are perishing."

    The Spirit tells us that we need to exercise wisdom and insight. We dare not allow ourselves to be deceived. We need insight from God. Satan masquerades as an angel of light. Who will be able to resist the display of the glory of this fake trinity? There will be miracles, authority and power. Great force will be used against the saints.

    There are three things we see in our text.

    First, as a Christian you should not be deceived.

    One of the characteristics of the first beast in that he will blaspheme God, slander His name, His dwelling place and those who live in heaven. The second beast will set up an image to the first beast and kill anyone who refuses to worship the image. He will also force people to receive the mark of the beast.

    Christians will be able to recognize the characteristics of the beasts. All of these activities are against God's commandments. No true Christian will take the mark of the beast. The mark is about spiritual ownership, spiritual allegiance. That a Christian will not take the mark is evident from two things. First of all, Revelation 14:9–11 describes the fate of those who receive the mark of the beast. It says,

    "A third angel followed them
    and said in a loud voice:
    'If anyone worships the beast
    and his image and receives his mark
    on the forehead or on the hand,
    he, too, will drink
    of the wine of God's fury,
    which has been poured full strength
    into the cup of his wrath.
    He will be tormented with burning sulfur
    in the presence of the holy angels
    and of the Lamb.
    And the smoke of their torment
    rises for ever and ever.
    There is no rest day or night for those
    who worship the beast and his image,
    or for anyone who receives
    the mark of his name."

    The second thing that shows that true Christians will not take the mark of the beast is the fact that those who are Christians have the mark of Jesus. The first verse of the next chapter reads, (Revelation 14:1)

    "Then I looked,
    and there before me was the Lamb,
    standing on Mount Zion,
    and with him 144, 000 who had
    his name and his Father's name
    written on their foreheads."

    Christians have been bought by Jesus. We are His. Our allegiance is to Him.

    Secondly, we are told to calculate the number of the beast.

    His number is 666. What does this mean? Grant R. Osborne writes, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 518-519)

    "The ancient practice called 'gematria' was based on the fact that letters of the alphabet were also used as numbers in counting. The first nine letters were the numbers one to nine, the next nine signified the tens to the nineties, and so on. Therefore, every Hebrew name or word also had a numerical significance, and ancient rabbis would make interesting connections between words or phrases with the same numerical value. Mounce (1998: 260) gives an example, a graffito from Pompeii, 'I love her whose name is 545.' "

    That sounds interesting and no doubt is. People have come up with lots of names that fit the criteria, including the Roman emperors Nero, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. More recently others have suggested Hitler or Stalin, or the leaders of false religions. But G. K. Beale cautions, (Revelation: NIGTC, p. 720-721)

    "None of the many proposed solutions using gematria is ultimately satisfactory because there are so many names, ancient and modern, that come to 666."

    Beale continues,

    "We cannot infer much from the fact that a key fits the lock if it is a lock in which almost any key will turn."

    So any adding of the numbers is not very useful. It may be clever but I don't believe it's exercising the wisdom and understanding that we are supposed to have.

    But what then does the number 666 tell us? Vern Poythress writes, (The Returning King, p. 147)

    "Divine completeness would be expressed by 777, and 666 consistently falls short of that."

    Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation, NICNT; p. 262)

    "Some writers take the number more as a symbol than a cryptogram. 666 is the number that falls short of perfection in each of its digits. For Hendriksen it represents 'failure upon failure upon failure.' It is symbolic of the beast's continuing failure to accomplish his purpose. It is the trinity of imperfection."

    Vern Poythress notes that, (The Returning King, p. 147)

    "Christians found that the name Jesus had numerical value 888 in Greek. Hence, the number 666 also makes a contrast with the name of Jesus (cf. 14:1). Jesus is the Christ, who brings in the new creation on the eighth day. The Beast is the Antichrist, who counterfeits Christ but falls short."

    What we must understand is that Satan wants to be God.

    He wants to be worshipped. We believe that pride was involved in his fall into sin. When he tempted Jesus, one of the temptations involved an attempt to get Jesus to worship him.

    But he is not worthy of worship. He is not good. When he saw Adam and Eve in Eden he sought to destroy them. He did not have their best interests at heart. He hated God and he hated Adam and Eve. He lied to Eve. He deceived her. Here in our text we see that he gives power to the beasts, but it is not to help human beings, but to destroy them. He deceives. He forces people to receive the mark of the beast. The devil enslaves people. He seeks to take people away from God, to take life from them and deliver them over to death.

    On the other hand, the true Trinity is about love. God loves human beings. The Father sent the Son. The Son gave His life by taking the curse of our sin and dying in our place. Christ gives new life. He gives freedom, freedom from the bondage of sin, freedom from the tyranny of Satan.

    The dragon and the beast promise many things to human beings. But they do not deliver on their promises. Following them does not satisfy. It does not bring joy, it does not bring happiness. The fake trinity does not save human beings—it destroys them. Remember the sign that the Nazis placed over the entrance over to their Auschwitz death camp? The big sign read,

    "Work Sets You Free"

    But it was a horrific lie. The Nazis brought Jews there to kill them.

    In the same way the counterfeit trinity lies. They cannot save. They cannot satisfy. It's just like the promise of sin. Sin promises pleasure, happiness, joy, something better—but it always leads to misery. Sin leads to death.

    Christians, be discerning. G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation: NIGTC, p. 725)

    "Believers are to beware of compromise, not just with the Roman emperor, but with all the facets of the state in collusion with religious, economic, and social aspects of the idolatrous culture, which all epitomize fallen humanity."

    Don't love money. That will lead you to receiving the mark of the beast. Don't put your hope in political institutions, don't let miraculous signs lead you astray. Hold to the Word of God—which shows you the truth. It shows you what blasphemy, where the love of money leads, where human governments can lead you.

    What a wonderful God you have in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How wonderful they are. How they love you. God has saved us. He has set His seal upon us. He is leading us to glory. Follow Him. Trust Him. Don't be turned aside by fake gold, by fake promises. Cling to your wonderful and marvelous Savior.