Studies In The Book of Revelation
By Jonathan Mitchell
12:18. And I was placed (set, made to stand) upon the sand of the sea,
13:1. and then I saw (or: perceived) a little animal (a little creature or beast) progressively climbing up (or: repeatedly ascending) from out of the midst of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and ten bands (diadems; kingly ornaments) upon its horns, and blasphemous names (or, names [other MSS: a name] of slander and abusive speech) upon its heads.
2. Then the little animal (little creature or beast) which I saw was and continued to exist like a leopard, and yet its feet [were] as a bear's, and its mouth as a lion's mouth.
Next the dragon gave its ability and power, its throne, and great authority (or: license) to it [i.e., to the little animal]. 3. And one from of its heads was as having been slaughtered unto death, and yet the blow of its death (or: its death-blow) was cured (or: tended; treated), and the whole Land (or: earth) followed after the little animal with fascinated wonder and admiration.
4. And so people worshiped (or: worship) the dragon because it gave (or: gives) authority to the little animal; and they worship the little animal, saying, "Who (or: What) [is] like the little animal (the little creature or beast)? And who (or: what) is able (continuously has power) to do battle (or: wage war) with it?"
5. Then a mouth, continuously speaking great things and blasphemies was given to it. Authority to act (or: to make or do) [for] forty-two months [other MSS read: to make war 42 months; another early MS reads: to do what it wills 42 months] was also given to it (or: And so, a right from out of Being was allowed for it to suddenly form, construct and create [over a period of] forty-two months).
6. So it opened (or: at once opens) its mouth unto blasphemies toward God, to blaspheme His Name and His Tabernacle: those continuously tabernacling (or: camping in tents; living in the Tabernacle) within the atmosphere (or: heaven).
7. Next it was (or: is) given to it to wage war (or: was allowed to do battle) with the set-apart (holy) folks, and to overcome them. And authority was given (or: Then right and privilege from out of its being was allowed) to it upon every tribe and people and tongue and multitude (nation; ethnic group).
8. And all those continually dwelling upon the earth (or: Land) will worship it – concerning which folks, their name has not been written within the scroll of (or: which is) “The Life of the little Lamb” – the One having been slaughtered from a casting-down of [the] ordered arrangement (world of culture, religion, government and economics; or: from [the] world's founding).
9. If anyone continues having an ear, let him hear.
10. If anyone (or: a certain one) [is; is destined] into captivity, into captivity he is repeatedly (continuously; presently) departing [Griesbach's text adds "sunagei," so would read: If anyone is continuously gathering (bringing together) a captive host, into captivity he is proceeding to undergo]. If anyone (or: a certain one) is continually killing with a sword, it is necessary for him to be killed with a sword. The patient and persistent endurance (or: the steadfast, humble and supportive remaining-under) and the faith of the set-apart ones (or: trust and loyalty of the holy folks) continually exists here.
First of all, you will notice that I repeated vs. 18 of what is normally ch. 12, at the beginning of ch. 13. In the study on ch. 12, part 1, I bracketed vs. 18 since I followed Griesbach's text here (reading with later manuscripts) where the verb "placed" reads in the first person singular, "I was placed," so this verse properly belongs as a beginning of what is said in vs. 1 of ch. 13, as you see above, where the little beast is ascending out of the sea. The earlier manuscripts have the third person singular, and thus would read, "And it was placed (or: made to take a stand) upon the sand..." Either makes sense, but I feel that Griesbach's text (which Young and Williams also follow) makes more sense for the beginning of a new vision. Here, John was brought the shore to view what was to come up from the sea. Furthermore, in all the texts the verb is passive. In ch. 12 the dragon was anything but passive, it was quite active. Also, it has been John that has been "acted upon" throughout these visions.
We now come to the third view of the specific time: 3 & 12 years, or 42 months (vs. 5). Note that John is not called up to heaven, but is placed upon the earth, or sand. This picture is of what is going on upon the lower realm, the earth realm. Call to mind that the term "sand of the sea" was used to refer to the seed of Abraham in Gen. 22:17, and to Jacob's seed in Gen. 32:12. But it was also used to refer to the host of the armies which came to fight against Israel in Josh 11:4. So John is no longer in the heavenlies, but is brought to the multitudes of the earth. Is he figuratively standing with Israel, the sand, as he faces the sea, which figures the rest of humanity? A. E. Knoch makes a good observation here that the sea of this vision is equivalent to the abyss in ch. 11:7. We noted in the study of ch. 9 that there is a direct association between the sea and the abyss in the OT. Could the abyss then also represent humanity in apocalyptic literature?
Both Barclay and Knoch see the two beasts here as associated with Dan. 7:3-7, which is probably the origin of these figures, and they agree that this first beast in the Unveiling is a composite of the four beasts which come up out of the sea in Dan. Knoch notes that if you total up the number of the heads of the beasts in Dan. you get 7. And the total number of horns is 10. In His Concordant Commentary, Knock points out that "worship rather that rule is the dominant note here [in the Unveiling]. These beasts bring before us kingdoms and confederacies bound together by a common religion."
Barclay, on the other hand, seed the beasts in Dan. as symbols of the great empires that held sway in that part of the world during the time of Daniel. He says that "the beast like a lion with an eagle's wings stands for Babylon; the one like a bear stands for Media; the one like a leopard with four wings stands for Persia; and the fourth stands for the empire of Alexander the Great.... John's picture in the Revelation puts together in one beast the features of all four" (The Daily Study Bible Series). He sees the 7 heads and 10 horns as representing the rulers and emperors of Rome. Both Barclay and Malcolm Smith point out the oppression of the "Caesar worship," and how the strength of Rome, combined with the organization of this state religion, persecuted the Christians. At that time, those who would not worship Caesar was ruined. Smith points out that if the working class did not offer incense to the patron god of their craft, they would lose their jobs and come to economic ruin.
Knoch observes the religious character of the first beast, where the second tries to get all to worship the first beast. The calling down of fire "from heaven" is an echo of 1 Kings 18:24 – the one that answered by fire was the true God. This is an example of the "strong delusion" spoken of in 1 Thes. 2:11. He also points out the similarities between the ministry of Christ, and that of the first wild animal – the counterfeit. Furthermore, with the second beast pointing to the first, we see mimicry of Christ pointing to the Father.
Knoch follows tradition in seeing that this is all something in the future, while Barclay regards it as historical. Smith, however, considers it both historical (1st century events) and also a figure of what continually goes on in the world – the 7 heads are a representative of the "governments of the world."
So here, let us look at another view: that of Ray Prinzing – "The sea bespeaks the mass of humanity, out of which rises the bestial systems which have placed their mark upon 'ALL, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond.' The fact is every creature bears this mark of the bestial nature, until such a time as the cross cancels out the old Adamic nature [= estrangement], and we were born anew with the nature, and conformed to the image of The Son.... Either we will express the character of God, or the character of the bestial system of this world.... Not only is the bestial mark stamped upon the nature of man, to influence his thinking, and his handiwork, but we live under the mark of the beast by living in this commercialized world order."
Prinzing goes on to contrast the life of Christ while in this world, saying, "The name, nature, character of the beast touches every facet of our natural life. Yet Jesus had no trouble with this, and He instructed the people to 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's' (Mark 12:17).... [In Matt. 17:27] He used the money system to pay the tribute of the system.... He did not rebel against that society, for such rebellion would have defiled Him, having partaken of the world's spirit of rebellion. He gave the system its due, and therefore was free of any obligation to it."
Prinzing also goes to the Dan. 7:3-7 context and notes that "The lion 'was made to stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.' This indicates the beast's approach to reason and humanity... secularism and humanism..." Then he cites Paul in 1 Cor. 15:49, "And correspondingly as we bear and wear the image of the dusty person, [p46 adds: doubtless] we can and should [B reads: will] also bear and wear the image of the supra-heavenly One (or: the One having the quality and character of the finished and perfected atmosphere)." With these perspectives in mind, let's look at this chapter. First, the word normally translate "beast" is in the diminutive form, thus do I add the descriptive "little." Even though we might see this system as fierce and fearsome, God refers to it as "a little animal." Note also that it is habitually climbing up out of the sea of humanity. It is not hard to observe this in people and organizations or political entities, from day to day.
In the 7 heads I see the figure of division of leadership, and thus slow progress made in human institutions, and on our own path. The 10 horns represents all the power that humanity has in its control. But, in the religious aspect of this animal nature, recall that 10 was a unit of measure for the holy of holies in the tabernacle (corresponding to the in-most part within us). The kingly bands (diadems) on its horns speaks of its position of rule – even within the hearts of people.
The blasphemous names upon the heads symbolize the fullness of idolatry, as these heads – the concepts, thinking, character of the beast-like estranged nature – are identified and worshiped as gods, and are given the leadership and recognition within humanity which really belongs to God.
If we look ahead to ch. 17:3-17 we see more about this animal. The Great Prostitute (Jerusalem gone astray, or the false or apostate church – see Isa. 1:21, "How is the Faithful City become a harlot...") – rides this little beast. Thus can we see the 7 heads of this beast correlated to the 7 churches, of ch. 2-3, having gone astray by coming together with human systems and governments. In this ch. we see that "the 7 heads are 7 mountains where the Woman is sitting on them, and they are 7 kings (17:9). These 7 churches have become 7 kingdoms which are divided from each other, yet part of the same system.
Back to 13:2 we note that "its mouth [is] as a lion's mouth." By this sign we see a counterpart of the Lion of Judah speaking to His called-out. This mouth speaks words that are anti-Christ from the system that speaks "in place of Christ." The dragon (satan, the serpent) gives its ability, power and authority to this little wild animal. Thus, the false church rides upon the authority of the dragon just as the priests in Jerusalem rode upon the authority and power of Rome. Here, too, the words of this organized system has power to tear and devour.
Now what of the head that was slaughtered, then the death blow healed (vs. 3)? Barclay and preterist scholars such as R. C. Sproul (in, The Last Days According to Jesus) see this as a reference to Nero, and the "Nero resurrected" legend. Matthew Henry says, "Some think that by this wounded head we are to understand the abolishing of pagan idolatry, and by the healing of the wound the introducing of the popish idolatry..." We could say the same of Gnosticism. Halley follow this line of thinking noting that "Rome fell in AD 476. But, in the Name of Christ, and by the aid of the Church, Rome came to life again..." Malcolm Smith sees the wounded head as symbolic of all the nations having been smitten at the cross, but they are still here. There are others, of course, who see this scene as a picture of a future reinstallation of the Roman Empire, and thus, "One of his heads refers to one of the Caesars who will be slain and resurrected" (Witness Lee).
The NIV Study Bible notes that this figure "Emphasizes the tremendous recuperative power of the beast." I admit that when I first read this, I smiled and sort of shook my head. Yet, when we note that the multi-headed beast nature within US keeps seeming to come back to life, I realize that maybe they have something there. Paul quoted one of the Cretan prophets as saying, "Cretans are ever liars, evil wild beasts (little animals), idle bellies." 1 Cor. 15:32 he speaks of his exposure to furious hostility within people by using the figure, "I fought with wild beasts in Ephesus." Peter makes an interesting remark of such folks, "Now these, as irrational animals, born naturally for capture and corruption..." (2 Pet. 2:12). Jude 10 is similar. In the OT, Jer. 10:14 records, "Every man is brutish in [his] knowledge." Then in vs. 21, "For the pastors are become brutish..."
Even today, people try to slay some facet of branch of the beast system – some social or political evil, e.g. – and just when they think it dead, someone comes along and attends to it, "heals it," and revives it. Congress brings the issue up in another bill! And we, through our religious works of the flesh, try to slay one of the heads of the estranged self within us, and because it is not God's time for this self to be destroyed, its "death-wound" is healed, and it bites us again! There always comes a time when God will deal with this beast. It is His work.
Just as Eve wondered after the deception of the serpent, humanity wonders after the power and image of the beast system in each of its seven mountains (kingdoms of society: religion, politics, education, the arts, economy, media, science – this 7- mountain concept courtesy of Lance Wallau). As God's chosen people worship Him for giving His power to Christ, so the carnal mind worships the dragon because it is the power behind the beast system. As those who receive Christ receive the One Who sent Him, so those who receive the estranged system receive the spirit of that system. And we have the saying, "We can't fight city hall... or the government... or denomination headquarters...!" But the carnal human is yet fascinated by himself, and by what he perceives that this carnal mind can do.
And does not this system have a mouth (vs. 5)? Note how we like to talk; note our worship of the media. Note the produce from education, the arts, religion... Humans are constantly speaking "great things" and "blasphemies." The political and religious systems are believed to be needed in order to have "authority to act." Church systems in our day preach that you must be "under [their] authority," "under [their] covering" in order to do anything. Thus the dragon gives this wild animal (which is not domesticated or disciplined in the Lord's house) its "authority to act, to construct (and has not this spirit built buildings and kingdoms ever since it attempted to construct the tower at Babel), to do."
Recall that this is during the 42 months that the witness of Christ is happening (ch. 11), and while Christ is being proclaimed and demonstrated, the beast system with Babylon on board – the mystery of iniquity – battles against God's anointed.
In vs. 6 we see that the blasphemies are toward God, His Name (character, authority and identity), and His tabernacle (His body: those dwelling in tents in heaven). Thus it is evident that the aim of the "beast" is a religious aim, and thus its war (vs. 7) is religious and spiritual, for its words are against those in heaven (the spiritual realm; and the folks in the atmosphere). I suggest that those "tabernacling within the heaven" are the same ones called "the set-apart (holy) ones." These are set-apart within "every tribe, people, tongue and multitude (or: nation)."
The "authority" given to the little animal is from the spirit of the controlling system which is adversarial to us. This is only relative authority, but even Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4) confesses that "the heavens [figure for God] do rule." And as we have seen in the story of Job, although satan was an instrument of the actual destruction, Job only recognized God as the One who gives and takes. Further, satan received its commission, authority and restrictions from God in that situation. Consider Rom. 8:20, "For to vanity was the creation subjected, NOT VOLUNTARILY, but because of Him Who subjects it, in expectation..." (CLNT). So ultimately, it is God Who give both the dragon and the beast their authority.
Those who dwell, spend their time, lives, thoughts, desires and affections upon the "earth realm" – the material – will be the ones who "worship" the beast. These are those who are not enrolled in the scroll of the Lamb's Life. Not having this life within them, they have not choice but to worship the only things that they were given eyes to see – which is that which is figured by the little animal, here.
Now the Lamb is phrased in vs. 8 as "the One having been slaughtered from a casting-down of [the] ordered arrangement (or: from the world's founding)." Just when this refers to is debatable. Did this refer to the destruction of the "life in the Garden of Eden"? Was this Adam (who was a TYPE of Him Who is about to be – Rom. 5:14, and who was NOT DECEIVED – 1 Tim. 2:14) – knowingly giving himself to be slaughtered by receiving the fruit from His bride who had by eating just entered into the state of dying? Or was the casting down His inevitable death sentence?
Vs. 9 is an echo of ch's. 2-3, and reminds us that He is still speaking to the called-out communities.
In addressing vs. 10, which seems to be parenthetical to the narrative, we see that it is made up of two quotations – Jer. 15:2, where Jeremiah tells the folks that such as are for death will go forth unto death; such as are for the sword will go forth unto the sword; such as are for famine will god forth to famine; and such as are for captivity will go forth unto captivity. What God decrees will happen. Then Matt. 26:52 is quoted. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus tells Peter to "Put your sword back into its place: for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."
The context of Jer. 15 was that of judgment. Jude 4 tells us,
"For some men came in unobserved, from the side, those of old (or: folks from long ago), folks previously WRITTEN INTO THIS JUDGMENT (or: the result and effect of this decision): [to exist being] impious ones, ones continuously changing the grace and favor of God into licentiousness and repeatedly denying our only Sovereign and Lord (or: Supreme Ruler and Owner), Jesus Christ." Here we see a kind of predestination at work, as Barclay sees in Jer. 15.
The final statement of vs. 10 has been seen as a prohibition against violence. However, if we remember what the two witnesses of ch. 11 were given to do, it was not quite passive. But within situations and environments of captivity and of the use of the sword, patient endurance and faith are needed (see Heb. 11:35b-38). Prinzing appropriately quotes 2 Cor. 10:4-5 here,
4. for you see, the tools and weapons of our military service and warfare [are] not fleshly (= do not pertain to our human condition; [“are not the weapons of the Domination System” – Walter Wink]), but rather, [are] powerful ones and capable ones in God (or: by God), [focused] toward [the] pulling down (demolition) of fortifications (strongholds; bulwarks; strongly entrenched positions [of the “Domination System” – Walter Wink]),
5. progressively tearing down and demolishing conceptions (concepts; the effects of thoughts, calculations, imaginations, reasonings and reflections) and every height (or: high position) and lofty [attitude, purpose or obstacle] that is habitually lifting itself up against (or: elevating itself up on so as to put down) the intimate and experiential knowledge of God, and then taking captive every thought – one after another – and leading them prisoner into the hearing obedience of the Christ (or: the humble attentive listening, which comes from the Anointed One; or: the submissive paying attention, which is the Anointing).
11. Next I saw another little animal (little creature or beast), progressively stepping up out of the midst of the Land (or: earth), and it had two horns like a little lamb, yet it was, and continued, speaking as [the] dragon,
12. and it is continually exercising (doing, performing, executing) all the authority of the first little animal (or: little wild beast) within its presence (before it; in its sight), and it repeatedly makes the Land (forms the earth) and those dwelling in her, to the end that they would (or: may) worship the first little animal (little creature or wild beast) whose death blow was cured (or: treated).
13. And it is continually making (doing; constructing; performing) great signs (wonders, miracles, marks, inscriptions), to the end that it may even repeatedly make (a) fire to continuously (or: repeatedly) descend from out of the atmosphere (or: sky; or: heaven) into the Land (or: earth) within the presence of (in sight of) the people (or: humans).
14. It also continually leads astray (causes to wander; deceives) those [other MSS read: Mine] who are continuously dwelling upon the Land (or: earth), because of the signs which it was (or: is) given to it to perform (or: allowed to do, make or construct) in the presence of (before; in sight of) the [first] little animal (little creature or wild beast). [It is] constantly saying – to those habitually dwelling upon the Land (or: earth) – to make (construct) an image (likeness; resemblance; an icon) to (or: for) the little animal (little wild beast) which continuously has the blow (wound; stripe) of the sword, yet lives.
15. And it was given to (or: allowed for) it to give spirit (breath; a spirit) to the image (or: icon) of the [first] little animal (little wild beast), to the end that the image (or: icon) of the little animal may both speak and cause that whoever would not worship the image of the [first] little animal would (or: should) be killed.
16. And it is continually making (causing; forming) all (everyone) – the little (small; = insignificant) ones and the great ones, the rich ones and the poor ones, the free ones and the slaves – to the end that they may [some MSS: it will] give to them an imprinted mark (an engraved work; sculpture; [note: same root from which we get the word "character"]) upon their right hand, or upon their foreheads,
17. even to the end that a certain one may continually be unable (or: not anyone would be continually able) to buy or to sell if [he or she is] not the one continuously having the imprinted mark, or the name of the little animal, or the number of its name.
18. Here is Wisdom! The one having a mind must calculate (compute by pebbles) the number of the little animal, for it is man's number (or: [the] number of mankind; a number pertaining to humanity; a man's number): his number [is] 666.
In vs. 11 the scene changes and "another little animal" takes the stage. This one originates from "the land" (or: the earth; the soil). Here the figure changes but portrays the same thing. The land, earth, soil speaks once again of humanity, for Adam was made of the soil of the earth. This is the same land or earth into which we are to pray for His kingdom/reign to come. However, there is another aspect of the term "the land," and that is that it "may be used geographically, i.e., to indentify a territory.... [it] sometimes bears a political connotation and represents both a given political territory and the people who live there..." (Vine). An example of this use of "the land" as a metaphor for "people" is found in Jer. 22. In vs. 2-3 the figure for the people is "the city" – Jerusalem; the figure for God's people is changed in vs. 18 where Yahweh says, "Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross...;" then in vs. 24 He says, "Son of man, say unto her, 'Thou [art] the land that is not cleansed...'"
Another example is Hos. 1:2, "Go, take to you a wife of prostitutions and children of prostitutions, for 'the land' is verily committing prostitution rather than following Yahweh" (CVOT). In Hos. 4:3 we have, "Therefore 'the land' shall mourn..." In Joel 2:18, "Then Yahweh will be jealous for His 'land' and He will spare His 'people.'" See also Joel 3:2 and Zech. 3:9. Ezk. 14:13 makes the point well, "Son of man, when 'the land' sins against Me by trespassing grievously..."
Thus, I see two possible applications for the figure of "the land" in vs. 11: 1) humanity, the Adamic nature; and 2) God's people. Since the figure of the sea is more general, I lean toward this second application, especially considering the religious nature of the little animal which steps up out of it, and how it "repeatedly makes the land ... worship the first little animal" which ascends from the sea.
This second animal has characteristics "like a little lamb," but it speaks "as a dragon." Does this call to mind the figure of a wolf in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15)? Paul spoke to this situation in Acts 20:29-30, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves (i.e., little animals) enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves (your land; territory?) shall men arise, speaking perverse things (speaking like a dragon?), to draw away disciples after them."
Note that this animal has two horns like a lamb. Its power is similar to, or a counterpart of, the power displayed by the lamb nature, but is speech (message) betrays it as anti-Christ. It describes a ministry that looks like true Christianity, but its message will be "teaching from animistic influences (or: teachings about 'demons')" (1 Tim. 4:1). The two horns figure a counterpart of the "two witnesses," and vs. 13 shows how it will perform "sings and lying wonders" (2 Thes. 2:9). Recall that this "secret (mystery) of lawlessness [was] already operating" in Paul's day (2 Thes. 2:7).
Metzger comments, "With a grim parody John describes the beast as having 'two horns like a lamb' – that is, it has taken on the guise of God's chosen one, yet 'it spoke like a dragon' (13:11)."
This little animal is the system of religion which is the counterpart of the true body of Christ. It exercises all the authority of the first little animal (just as the body of Christ exercises all the authority of Jesus, the Head of the body), and leads "the land" (God's people) in a worship which is in actuality a worship of the first little animal, and not a worship of God. This is also a worship of the little animal within man (soul worship; worship of man's will; worship of feelings and emotions; worship of the intellect), but yet it is a worship of the dragon who gave the first little animal its power, ability and authority (vs. 2). Keep in mind from ch. 17 that the false, prostitute church rides upon this anti-Christ power-and-authority structure. Beware of the wolf that appears as the sheep.
Notice in vs. 14 that this animal "leads astray, deceives." Also consider the alternate reading which inserts the word "Mine." The setting is that of sheep, God's people, who are "dwelling upon the earth/land," and not in the heavenlies, who are caused to wander by false shepherds and systems. Keep in mind that they are led astray "because of the signs" which the little animal was given to perform. In vs. 13 we are told that these "great signs" were such "that it may even repeatedly make fire to continuously (or: repeatedly) descend from out of heaven..." And in Matt. 24:24 Jesus said that "there shall arise false christs (anointed ones), and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
So here we see that the context would have been 1st century Judea (that of which Matt. 24 referred), but also a type for the "church" of the new order. This lying wonder will appear to be "the fire of God" descending from heaven. If it is truly the fire of God, then it will consume the "sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones (the altar, i.e. that part of your self upon which your life is offered), and the dust (the carnal Adam within), and... the water (our very life-source)" (1 Kings 18:38). If these elements are still remaining after the fire supposedly falls upon us, then I think we should suspect that is was not the fire of God, but a lying wonder. Such signs are there to "deceive, if possible, THE VERY ELECT." To do this it will have to be something that really looks like God.
The next thing that this second animal does is to tell those who dwell in the "earth realm" to construct an image – a resemblance – of the first animal (vs. 14). Our whole society – including the "church" – is obsessed with "image." This calls to mind the scene with Aaron and the children of Israel (who, incidentally, did not want to approach near to God, but wanted a go-between) and the construction of the "golden calf." Aaron made an image of a little animal. This particular animal was one that was worshiped in Egypt. It corresponds to the animal-idol which "climbed up from" the hearts and minds of humanity – the sea. Thus was this a corruption of the Truth, it adulterated their worship of God with something from the religions of the world. This happened in the "church age" when Constantine adulterated Christianity with elements from pagan religions. It has continued to happen to where the "church" is a reflection and image of the world systems.
In vs. 15 spirit, or "a spirit," is given to the image. Is this perhaps like saying that something is "The Holy Spirit" when in fact it is actually an expression of the animal nature from within us? Or is it "giving life" to a system, giving it ability to speak, just as the first animal was given a mouth? Whatever, the result is now the worship of the very image (idolatry), and those who will NOT worship this image are to be killed (cut off from fellowship – remember, this is symbolism, although in the 1st century it may have resulted in actual death). Thus, power is given to the image. In history, this picture takes us back to Daniel and the worship of the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar. Similar situations would also have confronted the early called-out with the rise of Caesar-worship, but it can also speak to all forms of idolatry in our lives.
By using polar terms of little: great; rich: poor; free: slave, vs. 16 shows that this image affects the entire society. Thus, "it is continually causing everyone... to the end that they may give to them an imprinted mark..." The "they" in this vs. would be those of the "body" of this anti-Christ system, the world of society, religion, economy, education, politics and government. A prime example is the fashion world of our day. To be "in" with the fashion trends one must wear the clothes and accessories which display the proper current "image." But a not quite so obvious example is the inward conformity – although this results in behavior which can be observed. Even the "image" of what is the accepted form of "praise and worship" of the various religious groups. Our society displays its marks, its images and logos, in the physical and the soulish arenas. But what we have specifically here in vs. 16 involves the spiritual, the religious.
Observe that the verb "make" can also be translated "form," and the noun "imprinted mark" can also be translated "sculpture." This is the counterpart of 2 Cor. 3:18, "Now we, ourselves, all – having a face that has been uncovered and remains unveiled [note: as with Moses, before the Lord, Ex. 34:34] – being folks who by a mirror are continuously observing, as ourselves, the Lord's [= Yahweh's or Christ's] glory (or: being those who progressively reflect – from ourselves as by a mirror – the glory of [our] Owner), are presently being continuously and progressively transformed into the very same image, from glory into glory – in accord with and exactly as – from [the] Lord's Breath-effect (or: from [the] Spirit of [the] Lord [= Christ or Yahweh])."
Also, there is Rom. 12:2, "And stop constantly conforming yourself to (or, as passive: And quit being repeatedly fashioned or patterned together by) this age [or, with other MSS: and not to be continuously configured to this age; and to not constantly remodel yourself for this age], but on the contrary, be continuously transformed (transfigured; changed in shape, form and semblance) by the renewing (or: in the renewal; for the making-back-up-new again) of your mind into the [situation and condition for] you to be habitually examining in order to be testing and, after scrutiny, approving what [is] God's will (design; purpose; resolve; intent): the good and well-pleasing, even perfect (finished and complete)! (or: the thing [that is] virtuous, satisfying and able to succeed.)"
The hand (vs. 16) is a figure for what a person does: work; activity. The forehead is a figure for the mind: how one thinks, what mindset he has, his character. If it is the works and the mind conformed to the image of the little animal, this is anti-Christ, or "in place of Christ."
The "imprinted mark, or the name of the little animal, or the number of its name" (vs. 17) all speak of having the identity of, and/or being possessed by, the little animal. And again, the name represents the character. Instead of being given the Father's name, they are given the name of (or: membership in) the little animal. In this way, they become the body of the little animal. The slave in the 1st century were often marked with their owner's mark.
"One of the ways a ruler impressed his sovereignty most vividly on the mind of his subject was by issuing coins bearing his image and title. Throughout the Roman Empire, every transaction of buying and selling, if it involved the transfer of money, meant handling imperial coins. Around the head of the emperor on a coin were titles, including in some cases references to his being divine and worshipful. It is such coins that John refers to as bearing the mark of the beast, without which 'no one can buy or sell' (13:17)" (Metzger, in Breaking the Code).
The number of its name is derived from the total of the numeric values of each of the letters in the name, since "the ancient peoples had no figures and the letters of the alphabet did duty for numbers as well" (Barclay). The NIV Study Bible notes that "Riddles using numerical equivalents for names were popular" in that time.
To not be able to buy or to sell signifies that one cannot participate in that society. It would also imply that only those who have the mindset of the animal society will be able to successfully function within that society. It is the thinking of the "business world" that one must step on others in order to climb the ladder of success. The "religious world" has its own mindset, to which one must show allegiance if he or she is to "make it" in that world. One must above all have the right doctrines (forehead) and do the right things (hand) if one is to receive the denominational "stamp of approval."
Much has been made of the number 666, but I suggest that it is simply "mankind's number" – its identity, its mindset, it character – expressed in three-part fullness, representing the spirit, soul and body of a human, or, as Knoch says, "the summit of all man's efforts."
Barclay says, "If we take Nero in Latin and give it its numerical equivalent, we get: N = 50; E = 6; R = 500; O = 60; N = 50. The total is 666.... In Hebrew the letters of Nero Caesar also add up to 666. There is little doubt that the number of the beast stands for Nero..." The NIV Study Bible notes, "Various schemes for decoding these numbers result in such names as Euanthas, Lateinor, and Nero Caesar (currently the favorite). Others take 666 as a symbol for the trinity of evil and imperfection – each digit fall short of the perfect number 7." I will end comments on this with a quote from Ray Prinzing, "The beast symbolized the flesh, the world, the devil. Its name bespeaks of its nature, its character. And its number depicts it reaching its full expression."
Let us not that vs. 18 says, "The one having a MIND must calculate the number of the little animal..." It also says, "Here is Wisdom!" The call of the Spirit is to use your mind in this matter, and to actually calculate the number. The number is already given to us, so in this case to "calculate" or "compute" would not mean to total, but rather to "figure out what this means." But for those who shun the use of the mind in considering "spiritual" matters, here is an imperative from the Spirit to use your mind. It is wisdom to do so. It would also suggest that Wisdom is present in considering what may be thought of as negative, or worldly, matters.