Then I saw another monster coming up from the earth. It had two horns like those of the lamb, and it spoke like a dragon. ~REVELATION 13:11
In this chapter we have two beasts–one from the sea, and one from the land. The beast from the sea is Rome and its political power. The beast from the earth represents economic and religious forces supporting the cultic empire. Behind the two beasts, empowering them, is the dragon. So we have here an unholy trinity.
This second monster, looking like the Lamb, but speaking like a dragon, shows that there were evil religious forces pushing the agenda of the empire, and also reminds us of Jesus’s warning to be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing. (I just love that artwork above from the latest album by Ritual Servant, a most excellent Christian metal band with up front Scripture-based lyrics)
This beast from the earth is later called “the false prophet” in chapters 16, 19, and 20. G.K. Beale sums up nicely in his commentary: “A true prophet leads people to worship God, but the false prophet leads them to worship the state (and, by extension, the devil).” This is such a simple test, isn’t it? Does the teacher in question lead and encourage you to follow God? Or someone or something else? This we must ever keep before us.
A person may speak very well, be charismatic and passionate, but who or what are they really leading you to? The speaking like a dragon in this verse reflects the alluring, deceptive speech of satan, the dragon, which led to the sin of Adam and Eve. And later, in the first century A.D., false teachers under the influence of the same dragon were encouraging compromise with the culture’s idolatrous institutions.
I’m thinking a lot along this subject line lately as I’ve been immersed in the story of the twentieth century false prophet Jim Jones. So immersed in fact, that the other day my wife Ana asked me, “So when are you going to come back home from Jonestown?” She knows all too well that when I dive in to something, I take up residence there for a month or two, absorbing every drop I can soak up before returning–hopefully with life lessons learned and wisdom to pass on.
Jim Jones never really encouraged the worship of God, but rather the worship of socialism and of himself. In fact, in an interview the year before his death, he said that he was an atheist and never actually did believe in God. Yet he was ordained in the Disciples of Christ denomination! How can this happen?
When you speak like a dragon.
When you are “gifted” in the way of saying what the people in front of you want to hear. If you are speaking to Bible-based believers, you quote Scripture. When you’re in front of a crowd of non-religious folk who have a heart for social justice, you downplay God, maybe even denigrate the Bible, and talk about how we need to help the downtrodden. This is how the not-so-reverend Jones did it. But not everyone was fooled of course.
The speech of the false prophet may be alluring, but even a mildly careful listen will clue you in on the fact that this is dragon speak, and not truly Lamb-like. Again, the main item you listen for is who they point you to.
By showing us what Babylon is really like, Revelation is asking us: Who do you belong to? Where do your loyalties lie? What are those basic commitments that make you who you are? Does your life bear the seal of God, or the mark of the beast?