Summary: We must train our subconscious mind, the part of us that makes most of our decisions, with truth and good and beauty. Then we will be able to discern God’s good and perfect and holy will, and flee when the Beast rears a head that looks good, but is truly corrupt.
v. 11 and I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and it had two horns like a lamb, and speaking like the dragon,
v. 12 and it had all the authority of the first beast it does in its presence, and causes all the inhabitants of the earth to worship the first beast, who had been healed of its wound of death.
v. 13 and it does great miracles, in order that fire would come down from heaven to the earth in the presence of people.
v. 14 and it deceives the people living on earth, through the miracles given it to perform before the beast, telling those living on earth to make an image of the beast that has the wound of the sword.
v. 15 and it was given to give life/spirit/breath to the image of the beast in order that the image of the beast could speak, and in order to cause those how would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
v 11 horns see above, 12:3. like a lamb This is a little lamb. Little lambs don’t have horns. This is unnatural. Just as the enemy comes as an angel of light, this king comes as a lamb, but is a beast.
v 12 power authority (exusia)
v 14 Deceived. It may seem remarkable that such an obviously false, demonic creature could deceive multitudes in the modern world, but, then again, maybe not so remarkable. More on that below.
v 15 In old commentaries, this description seemed magical. Now this seems like a description of modern communications and graphics technology.
Today people talk a lot about fake news, and all of us have received messages that are false, but we have had to check it out anyway, thinking it may or may not be true. But most people believe many of these messages that are not true, and the truth is pushed to the background. There is something called the “illusory truth effect”, that the more we hear something repeated the more we think it’s true, even if we know the statement is neither likely nor logical. Worse, it’s not a conscious process. We have biases in favor of falsehoods without even realizing it; even when warnings are visible with the false news (like, “This story has been disputed by fact-checkers”) make no difference. We begin to believe what we repeatedly hear (for a readable presentation of the research see: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/10/5/16410912/illusory-truth-fake-news-las-vegas-google-facebook).
People who follow Jesus are vulnerable to this kind of deception as well. Partly for this reason, we need to be in constant contact with the real-the genuine-in order to inure ourselves against the appearance of the counterfeit. The old bank-teller rule still applies. If you want train someone to recognize a fake bill, you don’t have to teach them about the counterfeit. Bank tellers are trained by having them handle tens of thousands of genuine bills. After this exposure, a fake is placed in the stack. After handling a multitude of the real thing, a fake simply feels wrong. For this reason, time of daily prayer and Bible reading can change the mind and heart in ways that are subconscious. We are transformed by contact with Truth and Good and Graciousness. This exposure makes the false simply feel false. This is part of what it means to develop maturity, it’s the recognition of what is true vs false, right vs wrong (Hebrews 6). If our main exposure-the things we read, listen to, watch, see, discuss, are filled with perspectives of falsehood, the false will feel right. If we are constantly filling ourselves with His Word, with things that true and good, with praise and kindness and love, our hearts will know intuitively what is wrong, without having to be told (Philippians 4, Romans 12).
I am not arguing here that we should avoid reason and logical argument, just the opposite (Isaiah 1). The point is that we must train our subconscious mind, the part of us that makes most of our decisions, with truth and good and beauty. Only by this disciplined training of our minds and hearts will we be able to discern God’s good and perfect and holy will, and flee when the Beast rears a head that looks good, but is truly corrupt. Then our hearts will be open to what William Blake described:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
Prayer for Today
Train our heart in what is good. Fill us with Your goodness, truth, and beauty. Teach our heart to praise you and pray to you throughout the day, and even in dreams and slumber. Grant us wisdom and discernment. Deliver us from the evil today, every day and moment to moment.
In the name of Jesus,