Satan in his war against the saint uses two chief instruments: (a) totalitarian world power, hostile to the true God, subservient to Satan, and claiming worship for itself (verses 1-10); and (b) established religion, supporting the claims of the world power, by false miracles and signs (verses 11-18). Such ‘beasts’ were found in John’s day in the Roman Empire and the cult of emperor worship. They have also appeared in later history, and may appear again.
- Note how true Christians are here distinguished from others (verse 8; cf. 17:8). What experience is inevitable for them in such a world situation as verses 1-10 depict? How is it appointed that they should show their faithfulness? Cf. Mark 13:13.
- In what respects does the second beast differ in outward appearance from the first? Cf. 1 Pet. 5:8 with 2 Cor. 11:14. How does its aims and methods bring Christians into direct conflict with it? Cf. Dan 3:4-6; John 15:18-21.
- Verse 2. Note a combination of the characteristics of the first three beasts in Daniel’s vision. Cf. Dan. 7:4-6.
- Verse 3. This suggests a counterfeit to Christ’s death and resurrection, intended to lead men to faith and worship.
- Verse 4. The reason for worship is not moral greatness but brute force.
- Verse 10 echoes words in Jer. 15:2. In the face of such treatment, Christians are not to try to resist or retaliate.
- Verse 12. This second beast completes the satanic trinity. It is called ‘the false prophet’ in 16:13; 19:20; 20:10. He is the Lie dressed up like the Truth. Cf. Matt. 7:15; Mark 13:22; 2 Thess. 2:9-12.
- Verse 18. Many take the number 666 to refer to ‘Nero Caesar’. Others, because every digit falls short of the perfect number 7, regard 666 as a symbol of the Antichrist.