From the prophets of Baal who challenged Elijah on Mount Carmel to cult leader David Koresh, the world has known its share of false prophets. And the Bible says more will come. During the second half of the Tribulation, Satan will empower a false prophet to deceive the world into worshiping the Antichrist. We do not know when the Rapture and subsequent Tribulation will occur, but the False Prophet may be alive today.
• He will seem likable.
• He will be allied with the Antichrist and Satan.
• He will perform miracles.
• He will consolidate power through the mark of the Beast.
• His number is 666.
• Study questions
In Revelation 13:1-10, John saw a beast rising out of the “sea” of humanity—a composite of the four wild animals Daniel saw in his Vision of the Four Beasts (Daniel 7). They represented four world kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. While this beast will have attributes of the others, he will be more powerful and fierce than any of the others. He will be well-spoken, intelligent, authoritative, and cruel. This beast represents the Antichrist.
The False Prophet Will Seem Likable
A second beast appears in verse 11, and he represents the False Prophet. Bearing the meekness of a lamb, this beast will convince the world that he is a reasonable, humble, likable individual. But his gentle veneer will only conceal his true nature temporarily—a predator with all the ferocity of a dragon. He will be the consummate fulfillment of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”
The False Prophet Will Be Allied With the Antichrist and Satan
Once the Antichrist and the False Prophet emerge on the world stage, Satan will establish an unholy trinity. Just as the Holy Spirit leads people toward Jesus Christ, the False Prophet will point people to worship the Antichrist. And mimicking the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Antichrist will receive his power and authority from Satan. This blasphemous trio will control every aspect of society and seek to steal God’s glory.
Revelation pairs the Antichrist and the False Prophet significantly: The former’s focus will be politics while the latter’s emphasis will be religion. In the Church’s absence, the unholy trinity will establish false doctrines to solidify the Antichrist’s political power. Satan has used this strategy throughout history. Whenever there is a spiritual vacuum, political power marries itself to false religion to give itself a mark of acceptability. Even secular belief systems like communism, atheism, and materialism cannot get away from religion. Their religion is anti-god, but it is a faith system nonetheless. During the Great Tribulation, Satan will use religion to unite the world under the leadership of the Antichrist.
The False Prophet will have the power to perform great miracles. Imagine the astonishment of all on earth as great streaks of fire blaze across the sky. Perhaps it will be a part of a gigantic celebration for the Antichrist. This spectacular show may be to center attention on Jerusalem, where the image of the beast will be exhibited.
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The False Prophet Will Perform Miracles
The False Prophet will counterfeit God’s miracles by calling down fire from heaven (Revelation 13:13). In the Old Testament, calling down fire from heaven was often used to execute God’s judgment. Fire and brimstone fell on Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:24. In Leviticus 10:1-2, fire consumed Aaron’s sons when they violated God’s commands. Elijah triumphed over the prophets of Baal when the fire of the Lord fell from heaven and consumed his sacrifice (1 Kings 18:38). And during the Tribulation, fire will proceed from the mouths of God’s witnesses (Revelation 11:3-6). Whatever God does, Satan is the master counterfeiter.
Holding ultimate earthly authority over spiritual matters, the False Prophet will oversee the construction of an idol for worshiping the Antichrist. I believe he will place it in the most sacred portion of the newly built Jewish temple. Although Scripture does not give details about the image, it probably will be a large structure, not just an effigy on a coin or some similar symbol. It will serve as a gathering place for the Antichrist’s worshippers.
This will not be any ordinary idol. Somehow, the False Prophet will empower it to speak. Satan cannot give life, so the image will not come alive. But its ability to talk will deceive people into believing it is alive. Some say it will “speak” through ventriloquism; others say a computer chip will power it, similar to the way our cars and smart speakers “talk” to us today. No matter the specifics, the image will seem to be alive.
I can imagine people gathering at this location every day to hear what the image has to say. The media will carry the content of the image’s speeches in the news; it will become a focal point of every person’s day. I believe this image is that “abomination of desolation” Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:15. When the Antichrist’s followers erect this façade in Jerusalem, Jesus’ disciples will know the Great Tribulation is about to begin. The image will be a signal for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
• What Is the Tribulation?
• What Does 666 Mean?
• Eleven Questions You've Always Wondered About the End Times
The False Prophet Will Consolidate Power Through the Mark of the Beast
While the mark of the Beast is often associated with the Antichrist, the False Prophet will be the driving force behind it. He will require every man, woman, and child to bear a seal on their hand or forehead to signify their allegiance to the Antichrist. In yet another counterfeiting attempt, this marking will be a demonic substitute for the seal God’s angels placed on the 144,000 Jewish evangelists in Revelation 7:3. In a world controlled by Satan, the mark of the Beast will wield absolute power.
The mark (Greek charagma) refers to the Roman use of a seal connected with the emperor, which conveyed official sanction. So the Beast will use a charagma to identify those who are loyal to him. Those without the mark will be deemed traitors and boycotted by the commercial system the Beast controls. Those without the seal will not be permitted to purchase what they need, causing them to die from exposure, starvation, or illness. Unlike the government-issued ration cards from World War II, this system will be permanent under the Beast’s reign. All the money in the world won’t be enough to buy bread without the mark of the Beast.
Those who refuse to take the mark of the Beast are not the only ones who will suffer. Everyone who accepts the mark will avoid the Beast’s wrath, but they will “drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:10). Receiving the mark of the Beast will bring temporary relief. However, this brief respite will provide little comfort when its bearers face an eternity of suffering.
What is portrayed is a tremendous union in which capital and labor are both subject to the control and direction of one man. Anyone who is outside that vast combination will be ruthlessly boycotted; no one will work for him or employ him; no one will purchase his produce or sell goods to him; trade and commerce will close their doors to him. Bankruptcy and starvation face such a man.
Fred A. Talford
The False Prophet's Number Is "666"
One of the most perplexing aspects of the Beast and his mark is the infamous number 666 (Revelation 13:18). People have made all kinds of speculations about this number. For instance, it first appears in the Bible in verse “18,” which is 6+6+6. Goliath was six cubits tall, his spear’s head weighed six shekels, and he had six pieces of armor. Nebuchadnezzar’s statue in Daniel was 60 cubits tall, six cubits wide, and six musical instruments summoned the worshipers. These and similar interpretations are just observations. They tell us nothing about the meaning of the number of the Beast. No one knows what 666 means.
We know that numbers in the Bible do have significance. While the number seven denotes the perfection of God’s acts, Scripture associates the number six with man—he was created on the sixth day, he must work for six out of seven days, etc. Tripling that number (666) could indicate the Beast’s incredible human ingenuity; he will be the epitome of man apart from God. Just as six will always fall short of seven, man will always, even at his best, fall short of God’s perfection. Whatever the number 666 means, the mark of the Beast will represent man’s attempt to glorify, even deify himself, as a final act of rebellion against God. Man’s kingdom, instead of God’s kingdom, will dominate the Great Tribulation.
I read a story once about Johann Sebastian Bach, the great German composer who happened to be a sound sleeper. His children discovered the best way to wake him was to go to the piano and play a few measures of some composition but leave off the very last note or chord. Their father would instantly arise, go to the piano, and strike the final chord. The one thing he could not tolerate was an incomplete piece of music. It had to reach its proper conclusion. Donald Grey Barnhouse, the great preacher from whom I heard that story, said he tried it in his own home. Playing “Silent Night” on the piano, he stopped just shy of the final note—then listened. Upstairs he heard his son trying to finish the song on his harmonica. Another of his children was singing the last line and adding the final note. Someone else called out, “Did you do that on purpose?”
“Six,” especially “666,” reminds us that something is missing—the story is incomplete. A man whose number is “666” will arise on the world stage for a few short moments before facing God’s judgment. Like a song without a final note, neither the False Prophet nor the Antichrist can bring history to its final closure. Only the true God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, can do that. He is a “Perfect Seven,” as are all who find refuge in Him for eternity.
1. Read Daniel 3:1-30
- What did Nebuchadnezzar set up in the plain of Dura? (verse 1)
- What became the law in Babylon concerning the image? (verses 4-6)
- How did the people of Babylon respond to the law? (verse 7)
- How did the three Hebrew young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, react to the law? (verse 12)
- How does this story parallel Revelation 13:11-14?
- With what punishment did Nebuchadnezzar threaten the three Hebrews, and how did they respond? (verses 15-18)
- What was the result of their punishment? (verses 25-27)
- How will believers during the Tribulation face similar circumstances? (Revelation 13:15-17)
- What have you learned in this study about believers during the Tribulation? Will God rescue them as He rescued the young Hebrew men in Babylon? (Revelation 6:9)
- If someone threatened you because of your faith, how would you respond? What would it take for you to resist submission to an ungodly edict?
2. What did Paul do regularly in his ministry? (2 Corinthians 12:11-13)
- What does the phrase “of an apostle” mean? What was validated by the signs?
- What does 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 say about false apostles? To whom does Paul compare them?
- Why will people be in awe of the False Prophet’s power during the Tribulation? (Revelation 13:13)
- How can we identify false prophets, according to Matthew 7:15-19?
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To learn more about biblical prophecies for the future, request David Jeremiah’s masterwork on the subject, The Book of Signs—31 Undeniable Prophecies of the Apocalypse