Question: "Who is the false prophet of the end times?"
Answer: The false prophet of the end times is described in Revelation 13:11-15. He is also referred to as the “second beast” (Revelation 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). Together with the Antichrist and Satan, who empowers both of them, the false prophet is the third party in the unholy trinity.
The apostle John describes this person and gives us clues to identifying him when he shows up. First, he comes out of the earth. This could mean he comes up from the pit of hell with all the demonic powers of hell at his command. It could also mean he comes from lowly circumstances, secret and unknown until he bursts on the world stage at the right hand of the Antichrist. He is depicted as having horns like a lamb, while speaking like a dragon. The horns on lambs are merely small bumps on their heads until the lamb grows into a ram. Rather than having the Antichrist’s multiplicity of heads and horns, showing his power and might and fierceness, the false prophet comes like a lamb, winsomely, with persuasive words that elicit sympathy and good will from others. He may be an extraordinary preacher or orator whose demonically empowered words will deceive the multitudes. But he speaks like a dragon, which means his message is the message of a dragon. Revelation 12:9 identifies the dragon as the devil and Satan.
Verse 12 gives us the false prophet’s mission on earth, which is to force humanity to worship the Antichrist. He has all the authority of the Antichrist because, like him, the false prophet is empowered by Satan. It is not clear whether people are forced to worship the Antichrist or whether they are so enamored of these powerful beings that they fall for the deception and worship him willingly. The fact that the second beast uses miraculous signs and wonders, including fire from heaven, to establish the credibility of both of them would seem to indicate that people will fall before them in adoration of their power and message. Verse 14 goes on to say the deception will be so great that the people will set up an idol to the Antichrist and worship it. This is reminiscent of the huge golden image of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3) before which all were to bow down and pay homage. Revelation 14:9-11, however, describes the ghastly fate that awaits those who worship the image of the Antichrist.
Those who survive the terrors of the Tribulation to this point will be faced with two hard choices. Those who refuse to worship the image of the beast will be subject to death (v. 15), but those who do worship him will incur the wrath of God. The image will be extraordinary in that it will be able to “speak.” This doesn’t mean it will come to life—the Greek word here is pneuma meaning “breath” or “current” of air, not the word bios (“life”)—but it does mean that it will have some kind of ability to breathe forth the message of the Antichrist and the false prophet. Along with being the spokesman for them, the image will also condemn to death those who refuse to worship the unholy pair. In our technological world, it is not hard to imagine such a scenario.
Whoever the false prophet turns out to be, the final world deception and the final apostasy will be great, and the whole world will be caught up in it. The deceivers and false teachers we see today are the forerunners of the Antichrist and the false prophet, and we must not be deceived by them. These false teachers abound, and they are moving us toward a final satanic kingdom. We must faithfully proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and rescue the souls of men and women from the coming disaster.
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