The three beasts and 666
Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992
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Chapters 13 & 14
A Bible Study
Rev 13:1-9 - Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear.Compare again Rev. 13:1 with Rev. 12:3, and then with Dan. 7:1-7. Dan. 7:1 represents Babylon (which had as their symbol a winged lion); 7:2 - the "bear" is Medo-Persia; 7:3 - the "leopard" is Greece; 7:4 - this beast represents the Roman Empire which continues today as the "world system." "So in this beast of Rev. 13 we are seeing the culmination of all the ways in which the spirit of wickedness had been used and permeated through the above worldly kingdoms in the past." 
The beast is generally acknowledged to be the Antichrist, which is:
(1) referred to as the "spirit of the antichrist" (1 John 4:3) - which is defined as a "spirit that does not confess Jesus (has come in the flesh) - 1 John 2:19 says about them: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.", therefore it seems they are "apostate," false believers - "The Antichrist (evidently) proclaims a belief in God the Father but denies the Sonship, the Lordship, the Messianic office of Christ (which is basically what Islam does).
(2) described as "world system" (Dan. 2:24-45; 7:23-27) - "The visible and invisible realms join together - humans that are visible politcal leaders and the spiritual beings that 'pull the strings" and control and guide the counsels of those who have assumed arrogantly to themselves the right to rule at their own whim and interest rather than acknowledging that the right of government they have been given is under God for the privilege not of being masters of those they lead but servants in the name of the Creator who gave them the gift of life and the privilege of rule and leadership. Note Ps. 2:2-3. 'I want to shake off any vestige of acknowledging God' - and so becomes 'anti-Messiah=anti-christ='anti-God's ruler' - 'I'm going to rule on my own terms.'" 
(3) the Antichrist is a person (2 Thess. 2:1-12; 1 John 2:18, 22; Dan. 7:25; 8:22-26; 11:36-45; Eze. 28:1-10).
This beast is not just a person but also a political system as evidenced that he has numerous horns, heads and crowns. He comes out of the "sea" - "The Hebrews were a land-loving people who distrusted a large body of water such as the Mediterranean Sea. To them the sea was a perilous and forbidding place. The sea therefore became a symbol of the seething nations of the world and of the troubled lives of the unrighteous (see also Dan. 7:2-3 & Matt. 13:47)" threatening them. Compare this with Rev. 21:1, ".....and there is no longer any sea."
"...and on his heads a blasphemous name." This is the ultimate sin not only of the Antichrist but of all who follow after him.
"And you have said, 'I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the heart of the seas.'" (Ezek 28:2) Note also Gen. 3:5; Isa. 14:14; 2 Thess. 2:4 - also Rev. 17:3. "The power and authority of the beast is not intrinsic - it is derived from and dependent on the dragon (Satan) - so the beast is one who is commissioned, authorized and empowered by Satan."  "...as if it had been mortally wounded..." ("esfagméneen eis thánaton - wounded") is basically the same Greek wording as that used for the Lamb in Rev. 5:6 - "...as it had been slain..." ("esfagménon - it had been slain"), both are from the same Greek word: "4969 - sphazo (sfad'-zo); a primary verb; to butcher (especially an animal for food or in sacrifice) or (generally) to slaughter, or (specifically) to maim (violently): KJV-- kill, slay, wound." The beast also receives "worship" that should be God's alone. The beast is not just another "false Christ" who comes claiming to fulfill Old Testament prophecy. He does not claim to be Israel's promised Messiah, even though it seems many in Israel will believe him to be. But those who follow him do so because he gives them a lie they want to believe (2 Thess. 2:9-11). This is the primary mark of a "false prophet," which 1 John 4:1-3 says the spirit of the antichrist is.
2 Thess. 2:1-12Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.To those who love the lie, the falsehood instead of the truth - hating the truth - God sends them the deceiver as judgment and then will punish both the deceiver and deceived together. The Antichrist is one who - together with his henchmen - wields vast economic, political and religious power, plus lying powers and wonders. The only protection finally against the deception of the Antichrist is to be as thoroughly knowledgeable of Scripture as possible and to have the Spirit of Truth resident within you (John 14:17; 15:26 & 16:13). Nothing dispels a lie quicker than the truth. If you know the truth, you will not be deceived by the lie.  There are those who faithfully go to church every Sunday, and may even participate in many church activities. But they leave reading and studying the Bible to their pastor (who himself may not be as knowledgeable as he should be - or even be "born again"), and think that it is enough to hear his weekly sermon. Then there are those who think that being filled with the Spirit is a substitute for reading and studying the Word of God. There are many who are self-deceived and not properly grounded in the truth (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17) so that they are "carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." (Eph 4:14) "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Tim 4:3-4) These will be "sitting ducks" for the Antichrist.
Rev 13:10-18 - He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.False signs are given by a false Elijah to "authenticate" a false message concerning a false Christ. Take note of Rev. 14:9-12: Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Everyone has to take a shot at guessing what "666" symbolizes. It could be the biggest mystery in the Bible, only perhaps threatened by trying to guess the timing of the rapture, It seems sort of like throwing darts at a dart board except that the Biblical targets of the rapture and specifically who the Antichrist might be are much more elusive. The location of the bullseye is continually changing it seems. Using the numeric value of the various letters of the Hebrew alphabet to try to total up to "six hundred sixty-six" in calculating the total of some selected man's name has only resulted in finding quite a large number of would-be candidates. Of course, in addition to the "666" there are a number of characteristics that the Anticrhist is said to possess which need to be taken into consideration.
Perry Stone, in his book "Unleashing The Beast," (pp. 139-142) asks the question, "Could the letters be symbols?" He goes on to say, "All twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphsbet are not only used to form words, but each individual letter also has a particular symbol it represents." He states that there are three Greek letters - chi, xi, stigma - that represent the numbers "666" and asks if each might be "hidden clues that reveal certain symbols that give us more insight on the future beast and his religion?" Perry concludes that chi might "allude to a symbol of two swords used in Saudi Arabia, the headquarters of the Islamic religion," xi apparently is "very similar in appearance to the Arabic letter that forms the name Allah....," and stigma "could refer to the mark that will be used on the right hand and forehead enslaving the followers of the Antichrist during the Tribulation."
However, I asked a good friend who is an expert in the Greek language concerning this, because my computer Bible study program does not show three Greek letters representing the "666," but instead the Greek words for "600, 60, 6" (hexakosioi, hexekonta, hex). He emailed me the following reply: "Concerning the '666', I do not believe that the letters are symbols. As you pointed out in your email, in the Rev. 13:18 passage the number '666' in our English translations is not three letters but three Greek words. Therefore, I think that all this teaching about the meaning of the three letters is purely speculation. Interesting but misleading if taken seriously. I think we should avoid this speculation. As the Revalation 13:18 passage says, it is 'the number of man'. It is no more than that; it is not the number value of the name of the beast, and the passage does not say that but that it is 'the number of the beast', that is, who he is, not his name. The beast is not God that he proclaims himself to be, but he is purely a human being, a man. To give any other meaning to the number '666' is mere speculation."
Rev 14:1-5 - Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.Zion was originally the name of the ancient Jebusite hillside fortress which David captured near the Kidron valley. He called this stronghold of Zion "The City of David" (1 Kings 8:1; 1 Chron. 11:5; 2 Chron. 5:2). After Solomon built the temple on the adjacent Mount Moriah, the word Zion was expanded in meaning to include the entire temple area. Eventually Zion was used figuratively for all of Jerusalem, then for the land of Judah, and finally it came to mean the entire nation of Israel. The New Testament writer to the Hebews gave it another meaning by relating it to "the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." (Heb. 12:22)"  - p.133.
Here is the Lamb, the Redeemer, with the 144,000 (cf. Rev. 7) who have the name of the Lamb's Father on their foreheads rather than the mark of the (ugh!) beast. They sang a new song of God's mighty acts which only they knew. They did not commit spiritual whoredom with the world system and so were not defiled. They worship the Lamb and remained faithful to Him. As Jesus was the "firstfruits" among those to be resurrected, so are these "firstfruits" among the ingathering of the Jews at the coming of Christ. The lack of deception they are characterized by stands in marked contrast to those who love the lie.
Rev 14:6-13 - And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters." And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality." And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."The angel that has "an eternal gospel" is apparently making one last effort as grace is once more extended to those remaining on the earth who are yet unredeemed. God's "hour of judgment" has now come - that which has been warned about throughout the Old and New Testament. One last call for repentence before the "door" is shut as it was on Noah's ark. A second angel makes a proclamation of doom about fallen Babylon, which must refer to the kingdom of the Antichrist. A third angel follows with a final proclamation of judgment after the hand of mercy was extended via the preaching of the gospel, and the subsequent fall of Bablyon, which made others drink her wine of spiritual whoredom. Here is the wine of God's wrath - poured out "full strength," without mercy - unmitigated - relentless. "On the last day there will be those who drink the cup of "blessing" with Christ and others who will drink the cup of God's wrath in the presence of God's angels and His Son. Jesus drank the cup at His crucifixion for all those who would believe on Him and His work on their behalf. But those who refused God's gift of mercy and grace at the Cross must drink that cup themselves now. But what a beautiful promise to those who die in the Lord! "...that they may rest..." Ah, but the return of the Lord Jesus and the change into our transformed bodies - are there words that can properly convey that wondrous state of exaltation and glory?
Rev 14:14-20 - Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe." So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.Again, the "white cloud" and He who sat on it was "One like the Son of Man," leaves no doubt that this is the Lord Jesus Christ. This must be a picture of the rapture that is deliberately put in contrast to the second reaping, which was of judgment - being destined to be thrown "into the great winepress of the wrath of God." The first harvest is not named as the second one was of grapes. Does it represent the harvest that Jesus talked about in Matt. 13:24-30? The images shown by the second harvest are quite an overwhelming picture of God's judgment: the grapes are thrown into the great winepress of the wrath of God. The winepress was trampled outside the city, blood coming out of the winepress in an incredible amount. There are seven separate images of judgment that can be counted above - all mixed together in one quite extraordinary picture of judgment. Is there a representation of the final battle here? Note Eze. 38-39; Zech. 14; Rev. 16:12-16.