Throughout the Bible we are taught that what Satan desires most of all is power and glory. He wants to be worshiped as God. And during the tribulation, for awhile, he gets just that. But no matter how hard he tries, his reign is short, his ability to destroy limited, and his desire to be God never fulfilled. Regardless of all he does, including calling forth his beast from the sea and his beast from the earth, the Lord remains sovereign and destroys him in the end.
In this chapter John’s vision depicts Satan as a dragon standing on the sand of the seashore. Out of the sea comes a beast, “having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.” (v.1) This emerging monster shares the same characteristics that we are told in 12:3 belong to the dragon himself. “Behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.” He is given Satan’s power, throne, and great authority. (v.3) This beast from the sea is the Antichrist.
“The prefix anti can mean “the opposite of” or “instead of.” The Antichrist is the “opposite Jesus”; he is the “instead of” Jesus. People focus too much on the opposite Jesus. This has made them think that the Antichrist will appear as a supremely evil person, that as much as Jesus went around doing good, he will go around doing bad. As much as Jesus’ character and personality was beautiful and attractive, the Antichrist’s character and personality will be ugly and repulsive. As much as Jesus spoke only truth, the Antichrist will speak only lies. This emphasizes the idea of the “opposite Jesus” too much. The Antichrist will instead be more of an “instead of Jesus.” He will look wonderful, be charming and successful. He will be the ultimate winner, and appear as an angel of light. In this sense the Antichrist will be a satanic messiah, instead of the true Messiah Jesus Christ.” (Blue Letter Bible)
With the full backing of Satan, the Antichrist comes to deceive and to attempt to claim for himself the glory and majesty that belongs to God alone. He pulls out all the stops, even staging a false resurrection. “I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal head wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast.” (v. 3) This beast of Satan’s imitates the death and resurrection of Jesus for all to see. Deceived, the world bows down in worship to him crying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” (v. 13:4)
Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will oppose him. For three and a half years the Antichrist blasphemies against God; speaking against His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. He tries to destroy everything that God loves and created, and wages war against His people. And he’s not alone. Joining him in this unholy trilogy is the beast from the earth.
“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke as a dragon.” (v. 11) This second beast is the false prophet. In Matthew 7:15 Jesus warns, “Beware of the false prophets, who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” And that’s who this second beast is; a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He pretends to be a great spiritual and moral leader, but in reality is as terrifying as his counterpart. He too is given the same authority of the first beast, and his job is deceive the world into worshiping the Antichrist.
He does this by performing “great signs”, including making an image of the Antichrist come “alive”. “And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” (v 15) Again just another trick. For we know that only God has the power to both give life and take it away.
The chapter ends with one of the most well known and hotly debated few verses in the book of Revelation. “And He causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and all the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or sell, except the one who has the mark, either 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 the number is six hundred and sixty-six.” (vs. 16-18)
God marks those who belong to Him with a permanent seal. And in Revelation 7:3 we are told that in the last days, this seal will be revealed by a mark on the forehead. Because Satan will never be God, he again does a cheap imitation by forcing all who worship his beast to receive his mark in order to survive. Without it no one will be able to buy or sell.
Many debate who the Antichrist and the false prophet will be, the meaning of the number 666, and the mark that will be required. Regardless, the result is the same. Those who receive the mark as a pledge of their worship to the beast and as a sign that they belong to him will all receive the same consequence…death.