In the nearly two thousand years since the book of Revelation was written, many have perceived the false prophet of Revelation 13 to be an ally of the Antichrist rather than the Antichrist himself. But is this the correct biblical view? Let’s study what the Bible says:
The Two Beasts of Revelation 13
Revelation 13 identifies two beasts that will emerge in the last days during the period known as the Tribulation. The first of these beasts appears at the beginning of chapter 13:
“And now in my vision I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names that blasphemed God. This beast looked like a leopard, but it had bear’s feet and a lion’s mouth! And the dragon gave him his own power and throne and great authority” Revelation (13:1-2,NLT).
This beast (described in verses 1-8) is traditionally viewed as representing the Antichrist, while the second beast (described in verses 11-18) is traditionally viewed as representing the “false prophet,” a man distinct from the Antichrist who assists in forcing the world to worship the Antichrist:
“Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of a lamb, and he spoke with the voice of a dragon” (Revelation 13:11, NLT).
However, neither of these views is compatible with what the Bible really teaches. According to the Bible, the false prophet is the Antichrist, and he doesn’t need a sinister sidekick to carry out his evil plans.
Why the First Beast is the Revived Roman Empire
Much confusion arises from the fact that although the first beast is the Antichrist’s empire, many of its attributes can be used to describe the Antichrist himself. Biblically speaking, this is not a unique concept. This also occurs in the book of Daniel, when Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar the king is the head of gold, even though the head of gold is clearly stated as representing the kingdom of Babylon:
“Your Majesty, you are a king over many kings. The God of heaven has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. He has made you the ruler over all the inhabited world and has put even the animals and birds under your control. You are the head of gold” (Daniel 2:37-38, NLT).
In much the same way, the beast of Revelation 13:1 should be viewed as the kingdom of the Antichrist. However, since the Antichrist is the ultimate ruler of this empire, it will take on many characteristics traditionally associated with his personality.
The Revived Roman Empire
The Bible reveals that in the last days, the world will be ruled by a global government. This will be the first truly global government since the fall of Adam and Eve, and it will be responsible for a terrible amount of destruction and murder before being destroyed by the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, who “will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44, NLT).
In chapter 2 of the book of Daniel, the prophet Daniel (with the guidance of God Himself) properly interprets the dream of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. The king dreamed of a beautiful statue of a man with a head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet made from a combination of iron and clay. The statue was crushed by a rock cut from a mountain by supernatural means, and the rock became a great mountain that covered the whole earth.
Daniel explains that the statue is a series of kingdoms, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonia:
“You are the head of gold. But after your kingdom comes to an end, another great kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place. After that kingdom has fallen, yet a third great kingdom, represented by the bronze belly and thighs, will rise to rule the world. Following that kingdom, there will be a fourth great kingdom, as strong as iron. That kingdom will smash and crush all previous empires, just as iron smashes and crushes everything it strikes. The feet and toes you saw that were a combination of iron and clay show that this kingdom will be divided. Some parts of it will be as strong as iron, and others as weak as clay. This mixture of iron and clay also shows that these kingdoms will try to strengthen themselves by forming alliances with each other through intermarriage. But this will not succeed, just as iron and clay do not mix” (Daniel 2:38-43, NLT).
In the course of human events since Daniel first interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, all but one of these human kingdoms (the last) has appeared and disappeared just as predicted. In order, they are:
5) The Revived Roman Empire
Attributes of the Last World Empire
This last empire, symbolized by the feet and toes of iron and clay, will one day constitute the first dictatorship that is truly global in nature. This revived Roman Empire will rule the world in the following ways:
“And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation” (Revelation 13:7, NLT).
“And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast” (Revelation 13:8, NLT).
“They worshiped the dragon for giving the beast such power, and they worshiped the beast” (Revelation 13:4, NLT).
“He required everyoneâ€”great and small, rich and poor, slave and freeâ€”to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name” (Revelation 13:16-17, NLT).
Every facet of the human experience will be utterly dominated by this global government.
The Ten Kings
“And now in my vision I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns.” Revelation 13:1 (NLT)
In its second incarnation, the Roman Empire will be ruled by ten kings. Another king will arise from among them. They will grant their authority to him, but he will soon turn on three of these kings, acquiring permanent control over the empire. This passage also underscores how God views the world versus how humans view the world. These same kingdoms as dreamed of by Nebuchadnezzar represented a beautiful statue; as viewed by God, they represent horrible beasts.
We learn more about the characteristics of the coming world government in the book of Revelation, where an angel reveals to the apostle John the true meaning of his vision of a woman sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns:
“And now understand this: The seven heads of the beast represent seven hills of the city where this woman rules. They also represent seven kings. Five kings have already fallen, the sixth now reigns, and the seventh is yet to come, but his reign will be brief. The scarlet beast that was alive and then died is the eighth king. He is like the other seven, and he, too, will go to his doom. His ten horns are ten kings who have not yet risen to power; they will be appointed to their kingdoms for one brief moment to reign with the beast. They will all agree to give their power and authority to him” (Revelation 17:9-13, NLT).
Throughout history, “seven hills” has often been erroneously interpreted as a reference to Rome, the city of seven hills. However, the original Greek is literally interpreted as “seven mountains.” From Daniel 2:35, we know that a mountain can represent a kingdom, and, given the context of the verses, it is proper to interpret these seven mountains as seven kingdoms. The seven heads of the beast represent seven world empires, five of which were referenced earlier by the prophet Daniel. They are, in order of their rule, the following:
7) The Revived Roman Empire
As the passage explains, the ten horns represent ten kings who, as we learned earlier from Daniel, will grant their power and authority to this final kingdom–the revived Roman Empire. Daniel concurs with the vision of the ten kings, the appearance of an eleventh king, and the defeat of three of the ten kings:
“Then in my vision that night, I saw a fourth beast, terrifying, dreadful, and very strong. It devoured and crushed its victims with huge iron teeth and trampled what was left beneath its feet. It was different from any of the other beasts, and it had ten horns. As I was looking at the horns, suddenly another small horn appeared among them. Three of the first horns were wrenched out, roots and all, to make room for it. This little horn had eyes like human eyes and a mouth that was boasting arrogantly” (Daniel 7:7-8, NLT).
Ten kings will give their power and national sovereignty to the revived Roman Empire. From among them, the Antichrist will appear, and he will become the preeminent ruler among them.
Furthermore, we learn earlier in the book of Revelation that the final world empire will be the seventh successive world empire and will be formed by ten kings:
“And now in my vision I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names that blasphemed God” (Revelation 13:1, NLT).
The Resurrection of One of the Heads of the Beast
We also learn from the book of Revelation that the seventh head of the beast will seem wounded beyond recovery, but the wound will be healed. The following verses reference this recovery:
“I saw that one of the heads of the beast seemed wounded beyond recoveryâ€”but the fatal wound was healed! All the world marveled at this miracle and followed the beast in awe” (Revelation 13:3, NLT).
“He exercised all the authority of the first beast. And he required all the earth and those who belong in this world to worship the first beast, whose death-wound had been healed” (Revelation 13:12, NLT).
“He ordered the people of the world to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life” (Revelation 13:14, NLT).
Many commentators have applied this attribute to the human head of this global government, the Antichrist. They believe the Antichrist will be resurrected in a satanic attempt to counterfeit the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, this is a misinterpretation of Scripture. The wounded head is the kingdom of the Antichrist, not the person himself.
Although the word “beast” is used to describe the person of the Antichrist, it’s also used in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 to describe his kingdom as well as previous world empires. Heads are symbols of kingdoms, while horns are symbols of kings. Therefore, a wounded head represents a wounded kingdom, not a wounded king. The wounded beast described in these verses is the world empire of ancient Rome, which was never completely destroyed like its predecessors. In the last days, the Roman Empire will appear once again, and the world will marvel at its appearance. The following verse reiterates this concept:
“Five kings have already fallen, the sixth now reigns, and the seventh is yet to come, but his reign will be brief” (Revelation 17:10, NLT).
The angel reveals to John that five of the kingdoms have fallen:
The sixth kingdom “now reigns”:
6) Rome (John’s vision occurred in the first century, when Rome still ruled the known world.)
And the seventh “is yet to come”:
7) The Revived Roman Empire
In the last days, this resurrected Roman Empire will rule all of humanity. Its reign will be brief, but it will be like no other kingdom before it. It will play the role of beast in a satanic trinity of Satan, Antichrist, and Beast.
The Book of Daniel
Further insight into the identity of the beast in Revelation 13:1 is provided to Daniel following his vision of four beasts:
“I, Daniel, was troubled by all I had seen, and my visions terrified me. So I approached one of those standing beside the throne and asked him what it all meant. He explained it to me like this: â€˜These four huge beasts represent four kingdoms that will arise from the earth'” (Daniel 7:15-17, NLT).
In this verse, a heavenly being explains to Daniel that the beasts in his vision represent kingdoms or world empires. These are the same empires foreseen in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, with the fourth empire representing Rome:
“Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, the one so different from the others and so terrifying. It devoured and crushed its victims with iron teeth and bronze claws, and it trampled what was left beneath its feet. I also asked about the ten horns on the fourth beast’s head and the little horn that came up afterward and destroyed three of the other horns. This was the horn that seemed greater than the others and had human eyes and mouth that was boasting arrogantly” (Daniel 7:19-20, NLT).
Notice the distinct similarities between this beast and the beast of Revelation 13:1. Both crush everything in their path, and both have ten horns. The similarities continue:
“Then he said to me, â€˜This fourth beast is the fourth world power that will rule the earth. It will be different from all the others. It will devour the whole world, trampling everything in its path. Its ten horns are ten kings that will rule that empire” (Daniel 7:23-24, NLT).
In this verse, it’s clearly stated that the beast in Daniel’s vision is an empire that will rule the earth. It will be different in that it will devour the whole world, providing it with dominion over “every tribe and people and language and nation” (Revelation 13:7, NLT). It will also have ten horns that are ten kings, just as the beast of Revelation 13:1 has “ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns.”
From these kings, another king will rise, and He will cause a shocking amount of destruction. This king is the Antichrist, and he will rise out of the revived Roman Empire:
“Then another king will arise, different from the other ten, who will subdue three of them. He will defy the Most High and wear down the holy people of the Most High” (Daniel 7:24-25, NLT).
Why the Second Beast is the Antichrist
In addition to the similarities between the book of Daniel’s description of the revived Roman Empire and the beast of Revelation 13:1, a number of notable similarities exist between the second beast of Revelation 13 and other biblical descriptions of the Antichrist.
He Speaks with the Voice of a Dragon
Knowing that the Antichrist is the human embodiment of Satan, the Bible gives us a clear identification of the second beast:
“Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of a lamb, and he spoke with the voice of a dragon” (Revelation 13:11, NLT).
It’s not by mere coincidence that this beast speaks with the voice of a dragon. The same dragon appears in chapter 12, and there is no mistaking his identity:
“This great dragonâ€”the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole worldâ€”was thrown down to the earth with all his angels” (Revelation 12:9, NLT).
Following a great war in heaven, Satan is thrown in defeat to the earth, where he knows that he has little time before Christ returns to establish His millennial kingdom. This event occurs at the midpoint of the Tribulation:
“Rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea. For the Devil has come down to you in great anger, and he knows that he has little time” (Revelation 12:12, NLT).
The midpoint of the Tribulation, when Satan comes to reside on earth, is also when the Antichrist commits the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Jesus and the prophet Daniel.
The second beast of Revelation 13 is also described as performing astounding miracles, so as to deceive the people of this world:
“He did astounding miracles, such as making fire flash down to earth from heaven while everyone was watching. And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world” (Revelation 13:13-14, NLT).
Paul clearly identifies this same beast as a man, the Antichrist, who he describes in his letter to the Thessalonians:
“This evil man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of wicked deception to fool those who are on their way to destruction because they refuse to believe the truth that would save them” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, NLT).
He Exercises All Authority
Throughout the Scriptures, the Antichrist is described as a man of unprecedented power who answers to no one. If the false prophet is merely an associate of the Antichrist, then how could he “exercise all the authority” of the Antichrist without being at least the equal of the Antichrist himself? He doesn’t, because the false prophet is the Antichrist.
The Antichrist exercises all the authority of the revived Roman empire, which is the seat of global authority:
“He exercised all the authority of the first beast. And he required all the earth and those who belong to this world to worship the first beast, whose death-wound had been healed” (Revelation 13:12, NLT).
The Antichrist will exercise all the authority of the first beast, which is the revived Roman Empire. He will require the world to worship and give allegiance to this empire, which will be resurrected from the dust bin of history (thus, healing its deadly wound).
The Antichrist will be consumed with power, and power alone will be his object of worship:
“He will have no regard for the god of his ancestors, or for the god beloved of women, or for any other god, for he will boast that he is greater than them all. Instead of these, he will worship the god of fortressesâ€”a god his ancestors never knewâ€”and lavish on him gold, silver, precious stones, and costly gifts” (Daniel 11:37-38, NLT).
The Antichrist’s god is a god of fortresses, and fortresses are the exclusive domain of kingdoms and empires. The Antichrist will wield immense power, a power unknown to previous generations, and this power will make his kingdom invincible to human enemies:
“They worshiped the dragon for giving the beast such power, and they worshiped the beast. â€˜Is there anyone as great as the beast?’ they exclaimed. â€˜Who is able to fight against him?'” (Revelation 13:4, NLT).
The Antichrist will only acknowledge one power: a military power he possesses. His power will be so great that the people of the world will marvel in wonder and worship it, asking the rhetorical question of who among them is able to fight against his mighty kingdom.
The Lake of Fire
Yet another way to distinguish the Antichrist from his kingdom is by studying their final destinations. The lake of fire is a punishment reserved for the beast and his false prophet:
“Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Revelation 19:20, NLT).
However, the book of Daniel clearly reveals that the beast is a kingdom, not a man:
“I kept watching until the fourth beast was killed and its body was destroyed by fire” (Daniel 7:11, NLT).
This is the same beast described in Daniel 7 and identified by Jesus Christ as a fourth world empire, and the reign of this oppressive government will be put to an end by the King of Kings Himself. When Christ returns to earth, He will destroy this kingdom as well as the Antichrist, throwing both into the lake of fire where they will experience everlasting torment.
It’s easy to see how the beast of Revelation 13:1 can be confused with the person of the Antichrist. As the Antichrist’s kingdom and primary vehicle for world domination, the beast shares a number of common attributes with the man of perdition. However, this has also led to confusion over the identity of the beast described in Revelation 13:11. Traditionally, this false prophet has been viewed as a contemporary and an ally of the Antichrist, rather than the Antichrist himself. However, a careful examination of the Scriptures uncovers an undeniable similarity between the career of the false prophet and the career of the Antichrist.
For the Tribulation saints, a firm understanding of the distinction between these two beasts is of paramount importance. It will aid in the proper identification of the Antichrist, as well as provide an invaluable tool for evangelism as they point out the similarities between the events of Revelation 13 and the events of their time. As such, we should do everything in our power to ensure that their interpretation of the Word of God is based solely on truth and not on doctrines invented by man.
Britt Gillette is the author of Signs of the Second Coming: 11 Reasons Jesus Will Return in Our Lifetime and Coming to Jesus: One Manâ€™s Search for Truth and Life Purpose. Heâ€™s also the founder of End Times Bible Prophecy.