Rev. 16:10 –The fifth [angel] poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues from pain, 11 and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, yet they did not repent of their actions. (HCSB)
Plunged into darkness
There is a sense in which the fourth and fifth bowl judgments offer the wicked a preview of hell. In the fourth bowl judgment the sun scorches the beast’s worshipers, and in the fifth bowl judgment the beast’s kingdom is plunged into darkness. Hell often is described in terms of fiery torment. It is “the lake of fire and sulfur” (Rev. 20:10); “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15); and “the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (Rev. 21:8). Jesus describes it as “the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Hell is where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). And it is a place where the rich man is “in agony in this flame” (Luke 16:24).
Jesus also describes separation from God as “outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13; 25:30).
Flame and darkness are fitting terms for God’s judgment upon sin and sinners. Fire consumes filth, and darkness aptly describes banishment from the presence of God, who is light (1 John 1:5). In John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself is “the light.” Note:
- John writes of Jesus, “Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
- John the Baptist comes as a witness “to testify about the light [Jesus], so that all might believe through him” (John 1:7).
- John describes Jesus as “The true light, who gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).
- Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
- He further tells his disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).
- Jesus tells a crowd, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36). And His concluding testimony is that He came into the world as light so that no one who believes in Him should remain in darkness (John 12:46).
The Greek word for light, phos, appears 23 times in the Gospel of John and 73 times in the New Testament. Most of the time it is used figuratively to depict holiness, purity, or godliness. Jesus uses the term in the Sermon on the Mount to portray the holy standard of conduct expected of His disciples (Matt. 5:14-16; 6:23).
Rev. 13:11 – Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; he had two horns like a lamb, but he sounded like a dragon. 12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast on his behalf and compels the earth and those who live on it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 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. 15 He was permitted to give a spirit to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 And he requires everyone – small and great, rich and poor, free and slave – to be given a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s name or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom: The one who has understanding must calculate the number of the beast, because it is the number of a man. His number is 666. (HCSB)
A second beast
We are introduced to the second of two beasts in this passage: the beast from the earth. We have met the beast from the sea in verses 1-10. The dragon empowers both beasts; this is explicitly stated of the first beast and implied with respect to the second, which has two horns like a lamb but speaks like a dragon. He is endowed with great authority and power, compelling people to worship the first beast and deceiving them with miraculous signs. He even gives life to an image of the first beast and causes those who refuse to worship the image to be killed. Finally, he restricts commerce so that only those who take a mark on their right hands or foreheads, indicating their allegiance to the Antichrist, may buy and sell.
Who is this beast from the land? Is he a person, or perhaps an institution? Why does he compel people to worship the first beast rather than himself? Does he really make a statue come alive? Is the mark of the beast a visible sign, or should we interpret this figuratively? And is there any way of knowing what 666 – the number of the Antichrist – really means?