SHAPE OF THE FUTURE (2B)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

2 – The Final Empire: Its Physical Geography

2-A. Dual Nature of the Empire
2-B. Economic Superpower: the New Beast
2-C. Who Are the Two Superpowers of the End?
2-D. Is Modern Europe the “Beast from the Earth”
2-E. Eighth Head
2-F. Who Are the “Ten Horns”

2-B. Economic Superpower: The New Beast

The Daniel and Revelation books symbolize the empires of man as beasts who rose out of the “sea“. These superpower “beasts” conquered, or will conquer, large portions of the world, including the nation of Israel. (There have been many beast-like empires through history, but only certain ones are mentioned in the Bible, namely those who had conquered the land of Israel.) The symbolism of the “sea” can be understood from Revelation 17:15 – “The waters which you saw… are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” If the Beasts were pictured as rising out of the sea, then likely it means their strength comes from their influence among the “people”, their own and those of subjected nations.

It was common in ancient times – in the absence of faith in or knowledge about the true God – for emperors to be worshiped by their peoples as divine beings. In our secular, modern world the same happens – but without the religious trappings – in nations where the Light of Truth has become extinguished by some means, by some popular uprising, such as the reign of Hitler or of some of the communist demagogues of the last century. In its modern guise, such “worship” might be understood better as “secular adulation”. Much of this admiration and worship that history’s demagogues have acquired has been based, not only on their people’s devotion, but also on fear… because of their strength and ability to make war. As it says of the Antichrist in Revelation 13:3-4, “All the world marveled and followed after the beast… and they worshiped the beast, saying… who is able to make war with him?”

Now, besides these “beasts” who rose out of the “sea“, there does appear another beast who is different from the rest, one who rose “out of the earth (instead of the sea) and who was to rule in the End Time. (Revelation 13:11) This one is pictured as a co-ruler with the other Beast of the End Time (the one from the “sea” who is well known as the Antichrist). This earth-Beast is also called the False Prophet (in Revelation 19:20, 20:10). ◊

The “earth” symbolism given for this “beast” signifies that his domain of power is somehow different to that of the other “beasts” from the “sea”. Like them, however, he should have the status of a superpower. He’s not just an influential person who happens to be a member of the Antichrist’s kingdom; he has a kingdom of his own. From the symbolic point of view, the word “beast” is like another word for “superpower”. Just as a beast has a complete biological structure of organs, skeletal framework, musculature, limbs, everything needed to form a fully functioning body, so a superpower has all the infrastructure of political-military organization, wealth, industry, manpower, weapons, everything that’s needed to form an empire capable of ruling a large part of the world.

 Head = Beast? King = Kingdom?
       
The Scriptures in Daniel and Revelation use the terms “beast” and “kingdom”, “head” and “king” in several places. A point worth mentioning about these terms is that they are used interchangeably. That is, it’s hard to tell if “beast” also means “head”, or if “kingdom” also means “king” – or vice-versa. For example, Daniel 7:17 states, “Those great beasts… are four kings;” but then in verse 23 we read, “The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom.” Furthermore, those “beasts” of Daniel 7 are later referred to as “heads” in the Revelation Book; Revelation 13 speaks of one of the heads (the Antichrist) being mortally wounded” in verse 3 but in verses 12 and 14 he is referred to as the beast whose deadly wound was healed”; also in Revelation 17, the seventh head/king is called the beast that was, and is not”.  (Daniel 7:3-7, Revelation 13:1,3,12,14, 17:9-11)
       
Perhaps using both terms to describe the same thing was the Lord’s way of showing that a “beast” (which we would normally think of as a system, a government, or empire) must include the “head” of that empire, a person. A body without a head isn’t going to get very far; an empire needs to have a dynamic and strong leader to unify and give it direction, plus be the head that people can look up to, or even worship. And vice-versa, a head without a body won’t get very far; an emperor cannot call himself that unless he has an empire behind him.
       
So again, to get a view of the “elephant”, it may help to keep this in mind about the False Prophet. In his role as a “head”, the False Prophet acts as the Antichrist’s right hand man who will guide the world into following him; but, to expand this concept a bit, in his role as a “beast”, there exists behind the False Prophet a huge empire – one that, as will be explained further on, holds dominion over the world’s economic affairs.

Throughout history empires established themselves through their military might. Whoever had the strongest, best-organized army became the leading power of the day. This means of conquest – by force of arms – is typical of all the beasts who came up from the sea”. (Daniel 7:3) But in modern times, new domains of power have emerged; especially, financial power has become a force equivalent to, even surpassing, the traditional forces of political and military conquest. This we may gather from the Book of Revelation in a Scripture about the “great harlot” (a whole other study in itself): “For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.” This is the first time in the entire Bible where those who wield the power of wealth are actually named as “the great men of the earth”.

Up to this point, the “great men” were always the military-political leaders – the Nebuchadnezzars, the Alexanders, the Caesars, and so on, and for the most part they kept the traders and merchants under their thumb.  But here, in this depiction of the modern world, a fundamental change has taken place: the “merchants”, the ultra-rich who pull the strings of financial wealth, are also known as the “great men of the earth”. Evidently then, judging by this Scripture and by the power dynamics in today’s world, the power of wealth has risen to a new level of dominance. And here is where the second Beast in Revelation comes into the picture.

Now this Beast from the “earth” is also called the False Prophet in Revelation 19:20 and 20:10, which suggests that he must operate and rule in the realm of religion. So we might wonder, does he really exercise that much worldly economic power? His influence should be mostly spiritual, we would think, not pragmatic or worldly. Well, let’s take a closer look at the religion he will be promoting. Revelation 13:12 tells us, “He… causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast (the Antichrist).” So he is promoting worship of the Antichrist and having thus a spiritual influence.

But then how is that worship manifested? Further on in verses 16-17, we learn that “It (the earth-Beast or False Prophet) causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.” (RSV) This passage describes the soon-coming credit system that the world will be obliged to adopt if it wants to continue buying and selling. But this act of getting “marked” is also an act of worship – like receiving a brand to show that a person has given his allegiance to and belongs to the Antichrist.

How can we recognize this as an act of worship? We can start to find the answer by looking back into the Old Testament: whenever the word “worship” is mentioned there, very often it is accompanied by the phrase “fall down” or “bow down”. This was the standard way of showing one’s worship then. But in the Revelation Book we see instead that the phrase “worship (the beast and/or his image)” is accompanied by the phrase “receive the mark”. Most of the prophecies and visions in the Book of Revelation were aimed at outlining events and conditions that would arise in the distant future, in particular the future we call modern times. And these statements about the peculiar practice of receiving the mark reflect the soon-coming historical reality, this peculiar futuristic way of showing “worship”, or declaring one’s allegiance to the Antichrist. “He deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.” Receiving the mark and worshiping go hand in hand – just as bowing and worshiping did in former times. (Revelation 19:20. Also, 14:9,11, 16:2, 20:4)

So, all that to say, the False Prophet, because  of his capacity to implement a new buying and selling scheme in the markets of the world, is able to use that system to coerce the masses into worshiping the Antichrist. His power is such that he can also push the Antichrist into a position of great authority in the world. “And he (the False Prophet) exercises all the power of the first beast (the Antichrist) in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast.” (Revelation 13:12)

To be capable of wielding such power probably means  that most of the world’s sources and production of wealth, including the financial system especially, have fallen into the hands of this Beast from the earth. And so it would appear that the False Prophet’s religious power is rooted in and dependent on worldly economic power. The Antichrist is able to coerce the world into worship of himself because of his military might, but the False Prophet is able to coerce the world into worshiping the Antichrist because of his great wealth.

What clues then might we find in Revelation 13 to support this conclusion about the earth-Beast’s ability to control the world’s economy? For one thing, while describing the earth-Beast’s activities, John observes that he has the ability to get everyone in the world to possess an “image” of the Antichrist and then is able to “give life” to that image (verses 14-15). This suggests then that the earth-Beast, or False Prophet, has considerable control over the world’s image-broadcasting industries that the apostle, in his clumsy way, was trying to describe. (See post “Unraveling the Mystery of the Image” for more information on that subject.) And the False Prophet’s control in this domain contributes greatly to his “religious” power.

And it would stand to reason that if he controls the media, then he must own it. And if he owns it, then he must be fabulously wealthy.  The same can be said about this Beast’s power to cause everyone to receive the “mark” for buying and selling (verses 16-17). If he’s capable of doing that, then it implies that he must control and own the computer credit systems of the financial world, pointing again to the fact that he must be fabulously wealthy.

Even the symbolism of the “earth” suggests this: Where does wealth come from? From the mines and farms and forests of the “earth” come the resources for manufacturing and industry out of which grow the trading, commercial, and financial systems of exchange. And what religion does the False Prophet promote? Besides Antichrist-worship, directly linked with that is the worship of Materialism. We can see then that the “earth” symbolism encompasses both the economic and religious aspects of the False Prophet’s dominion.

So with the Antichrist wielding power on the military/political front and the False Prophet wielding power on the economic/religious front, that results in fairly widespread coverage. The symbolism of the Beasts coming from both the sea and the earth suggests this idea of completeness. Never before in history have the Beasts of both “sea” and “earth” operated in and ruled over the world simultaneously and in cooperation with each other.

At times, powerful military empires were able to work together for a time as allies, such as the World War II Axis of Germany, Italy, and Japan. But these superpowers ruled their respective territories without interference from each other; whereas the picture in Revelation 13 seems to be that Antichrist and False Prophet rule in each other’s territory; they are co-rulers over that part of the Earth they’ve managed to get under their direct control. So, this combination will be unique in history – something that could only be possible in the Modern Age – although there is reason to believe that behind the scenes it has been in the works for quite some time. Soon then, looming on the horizon of history, we can expect to see the actual appearance of this last dual empire, this powerful union of two “beasts”, just before Christ’s return.

So now, the question is, who are these two Beasts? Or, what territories do the two “feet” of Daniel’s vision of the “image” symbolize? In the previous post we determined that one of the Beasts/feet was represented by Russia, but a question mark still remains about the identity of the other Beast/foot. And that will be the subject of the next post.

Continue to 2C: Who Are the Two Superpowers of the End? 

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