Pastor Mark A. Finley
General Conference Vice President for World Evangelism
Speaker Emeritus, It Is Written
The vote was deadlocked on July 2, 1776. Should the band of British colonies declare their independence from England? The Continental Congress debated all that day. The Delaware delegation had three votes. Of the two delegates present, one voted for independence. The other opposed it. The third delegate was at home on his farm, marooned there because of a heavy rainstorm. But he received word that the congress had reached an impasse. And his vote might decide the future. And so on horseback he rode all night through the mud and rain to the Continental Congress to cast the deciding vote.
Legend has it that a little boy watched the delegates through the crack in the door. His grandfather had assigned him the task, because the grandfather was the local bell-ringer. And the old man waited at the bell tower, ready to ring the bell if the assembly signed the declaration. As the lad looked through the door, he saw quill pens signing the document and heard the shuffling of feet. The grandfather kept walking back and forth, muttering that they would never approve it.
But then the delegate from Delaware arrived to cast the deciding vote. The little boy ran over and shouted, Ring, Grandpa, ring for liberty.
The United States has always pictured itself as the place that cherishes liberty. It has become a stronghold of democracy in the modern world. In fact, the nation has become the dominant world power. The issues of liberty and human conscience loom large in the end-time drama that the Biblical book of Revelation highlights. Will the United States still be ringing the liberty bell in the last days?
Perhaps it does. Look at Revelation 13:11. John has just pictured the rise of the medieval church, the papal power, and predicted its role in the end-times. Now he introduces a second prophetic symbol: Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb. What clues do we have to identify this lamblike beast?
CLUE 1: Where this beast arises. The second beast, separate and distinct from the first, arises from the earth.
Letting the Bible act as its own interpreter, Daniel 7:17 reveals that prophetic beasts represent kingdoms or nations. So this second beast in Revelation 13 is a nation. And it develops out of the earth. Now where did the first beast of Revelation 13 come from? It had its origin in the sea. All the other beasts (that is, nations) had a similar origin.
Revelation 17:15 indicates that the sea symbol represents peoples, nations, and tonguestumultuous masses of people. As an apocalyptic symbol, the sea had a negative connotation, and the nations that arose from it opposed God and His chosen people. (Interestingly, Revelation 21:1 tells us that the world to come will have no sea.) But this second beast (nation) of Revelation 13:11 arises from the earthunique in apocalyptic predictions. In the book of Revelation the earth, the opposite of the sea, has a positive connotation. In fact, in Revelation 12:16, the earth helps the persecuted woman (symbol of Gods people) by swallowing the deluge that the satanic dragon spewed out in an attempt to drown it. The beast (nation) from the earth, unlike the beasts (nations) from the sea is on Gods side!
CLUE 2: The time period of the origin for the second beast.
Revelation 13:10 describes the first beast as going into captivity. Then the very next verse speaks of the rise of the second beast. The second beast (nation) thus came into being about the same time as the first beast went into captivity, the time it received that wound in its head (verse 3).
The first beast, the papacy, received a serious wound in 1798. Thats when the French took the pope prisoner, breaking the political supremacy of the papacy. The second prophetic beast began to gain prominence after this time. Does that fit the history of the United States? Yes it does. In 1798 the new country was gaining a reputation as a nation to be reckoned with. Thus when we scan history we discover that only one world power was arising in 1798the United States of America.
CLUE 3: How this second beast rose up. Revelation 13:11 tells us that it had two horns like a lamb. What significance do they have? Scripture uses horns as a symbol of authority or power, religious or political. The lamb is young with only a little apparent power. Furthermore, the book of Revelation uses the lamb to symbolize Jesus Christ 28 times. Here is another indication that this beast (nation) is not an enemy of God and His people.
CLUE 4: Previous beasts had crowns on their horns. Crowns indicate kingly power in prophecy. But here we see no sign of kingly authority, in contrast to the first beast in Revelation 13. I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns (Revelation 13:1). This suggests a different form of government.
CLUE 5: This lamblike beast has worldwide influence. It causes those who dwell on the earth to worship the first beast power (verse 12).
The United States didnt fit that picture a century or more ago. Like a lamb with its little horns, it seemed to have little power or authority. But now its global influence affects people everywhere financially, politically, and culturally.
So lets review the five clues about the second beast, the lamblike nation of Revelation 13. We know that it would arise around 1798. It would be a new nation that would not be opposed to God, and would have no crowned head or kinglike authority. And it would rise to a position of worldwide influence.
John the Revelator has pinpointed the rise of the United States of America precisely.
The nation that rose to champion religious and civil liberty will be a major player in the final end-time drama. But what exactly will that role be? Lets look at the evidence in Revelation 13:11: Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. Im afraid that the picture becomes grim rather quickly. The beast that had two horns like a lamb begins to speak like a dragon.
What Happened to the Nation?
Obviously something happens to this nation. It started out lamblike, but eventually it will have a dragonlike roar. How do nations speak? They speak through their legislative bodies. The officials of nations speak for that nation as they enact laws. Revelation 13 describes the change from a lamblike beast to that of one sounding like a dragon, suggesting that it will begin to use its growing power in a coercive manner. The picture gets darker as we read verse 12: He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.
Note carefully what this is saying. The second beast (nation) actually causes the inhabitants of Earth to worship the first beast. That is, it will persuade people to adopt the fundamental principle of the medieval churchthe fusion of church and state. Once again, aspects of society that have been kept apart will unite to enforce religious practices. The strong arm of the state will again coerce in a way similar to religious practices through the centuries. Once Protestant America will join hands with religious oppression in a dangerous alliance of church and state.
You may wonder, How could something like that ever happen? It seems impossible.
But wait, theres more. Look at Revelation 13:13, 14. Speaking of the second lamblike beast, John says: He performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to Earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.
How can a country such as the United States give its allegiance to the beast of Revelation 13? Because of the miracles and wonders that soon will take place.
Many people assume that any miracle is Gods doing, that it confirms someones claims to truth. And God indeed performs signs and wonders as He thinks best. Sometimes miracles accompany the work of God, as in the case of Elijah on Mount Carmel. The fire that comes down from heaven is an allusion to the story in 1 Kings 18. But Satan, too, can work miracles. He can perform counterfeit signs and wonders. He can even bring miraculous-seeming fire.
As we saw before. Jesus warned His followers about what would happen during the last days. For false christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the electif that were possible (Matthew 24:24).
Spectacular signs and wonders are not necessarily a sign of divine favor. They can be an effort of our archenemy to deceive. And people who would rather have a sensational sign than the simple, straightforward truth of Gods Word are setting themselves up for a fall. They will find themselves deceived by the spectacular works of a sinister power.
John reminds us: They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle of that great day of God Almighty (Revelation 16:14).
Even the greatest individuals, including politicians and national leaders, will unwittingly accept the wonder-working power of the great deceiver. That power enables the lamblike beast to cause all to worship the first beast. Thats what will enable the United States to enforce religious intolerance.
A False Religious Revival
Does it sound hard to believe? Think about what would happen if a religious revival swept across a country, one featuring great miracles or other wonders. Consider how easy it would be to rally around what appears to be the work of God, perhaps the last chance to save the nation from moral ruinespecially if a national crisis occurs at the same time.
As miracles happen a spirit of unity prevails. People want to push the revival as far as it can go. They look for something that can unite everyone, some symbol of common worship. Why not emphasize the worship day itself? After all, its something that most Christians share. At first glance, the proposal seems so logical. Each Sunday the nation would all unite and worship in a spirit of brotherhood. Wouldnt that bring a troubled country together and make it truly one nation under God?
Does this sound far-fetched? Some religious leaders already have boldly suggested that a common day of worship may be a partial solution to Americas recurring energy crisis. By forbidding all driving on Sunday, except to church, the United States could save up to 15 percent of its gasoline supply.
Back in the 1970s Harold Lindsell proposed that for the purpose of conserving energy that all businesses, including gasoline stations and restaurants, should close every Sunday (Christianity Today, May 7, 1976). Lindsell expressed his conviction that such a move would satisfy both natural laws and the will of God for all men. Sensing that it was highly unlikely that Sunday would voluntarily become a day of rest, he further suggested that one way to accomplish this would be by force of legislative fiat through the duly elected officials of the people.
Some time ago, the U.S. Supreme Court (McGowan et al. v. Maryland) ruled that in some instances Sunday laws may be enforced, not on the basis of religious considerations, but in the interests of safeguarding the health and welfare of the American people. The late Justice William O. Douglas disagreed and stated the following in his dissenting opinion to the majority decision of the Court: It seems to me plain that by these laws, the states compel one, under sanction of law, to refrain from work or recreation on Sunday because of the majoritys religious views on that day. The state by law makes Sunday a symbol of respect or adherence.
Are you aware that in the United States of America, right now, many are seeking to redefine religious liberty? U.S. Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote in 1985 (Wallace v. Jaffree) that the wall of separation between church and state is a metaphor based on bad history. . . . It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned. A vocal element of American society is reevaluating the entire issue of the wall of separation between church and state. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 29, 1991, made an interesting observation: As the second century of the Bill of Rights draws to a close, the Supreme Court is redefining what religious liberty will mean in the third century. Broadly, the Courts new approach helps conventional religions while hurting unconventional ones.
The editorial proposes that the Court is moving in the direction of stating what an acceptable religion is. And if you happen to fall into that conventional religion you can have the stamp of approval.
Events are moving us toward that day when the lamblike beast will roar like a dragon. Lets look at one more characteristic of this second beast: He deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed (Revelation 13: 14, 15).
What does the phrase set up an image in honor of the beast mean?
An image of anything is something that looks like or resembles in some way something else. If a little boy is his dads spittin image, he has many characteristics in common with his father.
Remember, were dealing with symbols in Revelation. Thus the image of this beast wont be some literal object, that is, a statue or an idol. Rather it will be a repeat performance of what the beast did beforethe religious intolerance and oppression that happened during the Dark Ages.
Religious With Civil Power
At the height of its power, the medieval churchboth West and Eastclothed itself with civil power. It had the authority to appoint civil officials, punish dissenters, confiscate goods, imprison people, and even execute them. It was a powerful union of church and state.
Think about this scenario. Consider a nation ripped apart by crime and riddled with lawlessness. People anguish because moral principles seem to have gone out the window. Kids are mowing down other kids in the schools. Violence and obscenity and abuse intensify. Society seems unable to win the war on drugs, terrorism, or the many other problems that disturb it.
People even now are demanding solutions. And the most instinctive reaction is: There ought to be a law. Well-meaning citizens will band together to pass laws to save the country. They will think that they can rescue the nation by enforcing morality. Weve got to make our nation Christian (or Orthodox or Islamic or Hindu or whatever) again, they will say. Although its a good motive, its a bad procedure. The temptation is to pass laws forcing people to do by civil power what religion has failed to do by persuasive teaching and preaching.
Think of how powerful this new approach will become when legislative initiatives are endorsed by a religious revival backed by signs and wonders.
In the United States Robert Grant, head of the Christian Voice organization, has said: If Christians unite, we can do anything. We can pass any law or any amendment. And thats exactly what we intend to do. Another leader, Pat Robertson, wrote: The next obligation that a citizen of Gods world order owes is to himself. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy is a command for the personal benefit of each citizen. . . . Higher civilizations rise when people can rest, think, and draw inspiration from God. Laws in America that mandated a day of rest [Sunday laws] . . . have been nullified as a violation of the separation of church and state. . . . As an outright insult to God and His plan, only those policies that can be shown to have a clearly secular purpose are recognized (The New World Order, p. 236).
Do you see his reasoning? He is saying we have outlawed the Sunday laws. But if were going to bring this whole nation back to God, we have to worship God together. Therefore, it is logical in a time when moral values are waningin a time of crisisto unite on a point held in common, which is Sunday observance among most of the Christian churches. And it will require great conviction to hold on to the Biblical Sabbath.
No, the United States is not the final superpower. That is yet to come when the rock cut without hands smashes all human nations and sets up Gods divine kingdom.
Let me tell you about a man named Milton Schustek. He lived in Czechoslovakia during the years of Soviet domination and great religious oppression. When the Communists took over his country, he wanted to be free to read his Bible and continue his work as a pastor. But the Communists had other ideas. They had determined to turn all ministers into laborers. Milton knew that they wanted to send him as far away from his congregation as possiblefar away to the coal mines.
But then he got an idea, one that might allow him to stay close to his pastoral work in the city of Prague. He thought of a job that nobody wantedcleaning out the sewers. Nobody wanted to climb into those narrow, filthy culverts and clean them, hundreds of feet under the city.
Milton decided to see the Communist officials about taking that job. But first he got down on his knees and prayed. Jesus, he said, I want to worship You every Sabbath. Please help me to keep Your law and to be honest and faithful to You.
After being ushered in to see the local party official, Milton said to her, I understand you want to ship me to the mines to work. Let me tell you something. My grandfather worked in the mines, and my father worked in the mines, and Im willing to work in whatever mine you send me to. But I have a suggestion. You need someone to do the worst job you haveclimbing down into those sewers. And Im willing to do it. Why dont you assign me to clean the sewage system of Prague? Id be happy to do it, because that would give me the privilege of worshipping my God here.
Something touched that Communist officials heart. She looked down at her desk, then glanced up at him and said, Pastor, Im not a godly woman. Im just trying to fulfill work assignments. But Ill let you worship your God. Go and clean the sewer system.
Ill never forget the look on Miltons face as he related his story. He admitted it was a very tough, very dark, and very stressful job. But every day it was worth it, he said, because I could worship my God in loyalty, in truth.
Someday each believer will be called upon to demonstrate that same kind of faith.
* Slightly adapted from Mark A. Finley, The Next Superpower: Ancient Prophecies, Global Events, and Your Future (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2005), chapter 13.