Rev. 13:13 – He also performs great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in front of people. 14 He deceives those who live on the earth because of the signs that he is permitted to perform on behalf of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who had the sword wound and yet lived.
He also performs great signs
In verses 13-14 we read of the second beast: “He also performs great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in front of people. He deceives those who live on the earth because of the signs that he is permitted to perform on behalf of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who had the sword wound and yet lived.”
The beast from the earth is a miracle worker, but his purpose is deceitful. His goal is to cause all people to turn away from the one true and living God to a false god, and even to his image. What a contrast to Jesus, whose miracles confirm His deity, and to the apostles, whose signs and wonders establish them as Christ’s anointed representatives. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “The signs of an apostle were performed with great endurance among you – not only signs but also wonders and miracles” (2 Cor. 12:12).
Further, the writer of Hebrews tells us, “[H]ow will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to His will” (Heb. 2:3-4).
The miracles of the false prophet are impressive indeed. He causes fire to come down from heaven, just as Elijah does in his confrontation with the false prophets of his day, and just as the Lord’s two witnesses do in Revelation 11. He even empowers a statue of the Antichrist to speak and to cause the death of those who refuse to worship it (Rev. 13:15). This is an important contrast to the pagan idols of Old Testament times and of first century Rome, for they can neither speak nor act:
- Ps. 115:4-8 – “Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk. They cannot make a sound with their throats. Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.”
- Jer. 10:5 – “Like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, their idols cannot speak. They must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them for they can do no harm – and they cannot do any good.”
- Hab. 2:18-19 – “What use is a carved idol after its craftsman carves it? It is only a cast image, a teacher of lies. For the one who crafts its shape trusts in it and makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood: Wake up! or to mute stone: Come alive! Can it teach? Look! It may be plated with gold and silver, yet there is no breath in it at all.”
Details of the false prophet
But now the false prophet rises above his predecessors. Yes, the image is crafted with human hands, but he brings it to life, as we’ll examine in more detail in the next section. But before moving on, let’s take note of a few details John provides regarding the false prophet.
First, John says he “deceives those who live on the earth.” The Greek word translated “deceives” is planao. It means to cause someone to roam from safety, truth or virtue; to seduce. This deception is deliberate and without any hint that the false prophet has been deceived himself. For his grave sin, he bypasses the great white throne judgment and is cast directly into the lake of fire, along with the first beast (Rev. 19:20). Unlike other people, who sometimes sin in ignorance or are the objects of deception, the false prophet embraces his role as the world’s greatest deceiver with his eyes wide open.
Next, John says the false prophet deceives by way of the “signs” he is permitted to perform. The Greek word rendered signs is semeion and is the same word used to describe the miracles of Jesus and the apostles. These are supernatural deeds, to be sure, but their source is the dragon and their purpose is to lead astray the whole world.
Finally, the false prophet compels those who live on the earth to make an “image” of the first beast. This word in the Greek is eikon, from which we get the English word “icon.” It means a likeness, and literally may be translated “statue.” Figuratively, it can mean representation or resemblance, leading some interpreters to conclude that the image is something other than a statue.
W.A. Criswell notes that throughout history, it has been practically impossible to rule without religious devotion. “In the days of Pharaoh,” he writes, “when Moses and Aaron stood before the sovereign of Egypt, he called in Jannis and Jambres, the magicians, the religionists of his day, to oppose Jehovah. When Balak, the king of Moab, sought to destroy Israel, he hired the services of Baalim to curse Israel. In the days of Dan, when that marauding, avaricious tribe conquered Laish, they stole a priest and an ephod in order that they might worship some kind of a deity in the far north…. The French revolution had a goddess of blasphemy, of infidelity, of atheism, and poured into their fraternity of equality and liberty the devotion of fanatical religionists. Anyone who has studied Communism would be blind not to see in it the same fanatical devotion to materialism that we have in our devotion to the spiritual meaning of the Lord God. Without that ability to bring into his cause the devotion of the religious life of the people, no national tyrant, no supreme dictator could survive” (Expository Sermons on Revelation, Vol. 4, pp. 115-16).
Next: He was permitted to give a spirit to the image – Revelation 13:15