By Werner E. Lange

This commentary corresponds with “Satan and His Allies,” Sabbath School lesson for February 23-March 1.

The Adventist interpretation of the second beast in Revelation 13 is unique. Adventist interpreters, starting with John N. Andrews in the 1860s, have it identified as the United States of America.

This second beast rose from the earth (indicating sparsely inhabited areas); it has two horns (it is a political power) like a lamb (indicating a Christian nation), but it speaks like a dragon (Satan). It will exert a worldwide influence and will establish an image of the first beast (Rev 13:11-14). The word image here does not signify an idol. It always assumes a prototype, that which it not merely resembles, but from which it is drawn.

The first beast rising out of the earth (Rev 13:1–7) can be identified by the clear allusion to Daniel 7 as identical with the little horn that represents the Papacy in the Middle Ages. When it was deprived of its secular power in 1798, it suffered a mortal wound (vs. 3, 12b). But it will heal, i.e., its worldly power will return.

Ellen White explained: “The ‘image to the beast’ represents that form of apostate Protestantism which will be developed when the Protestant churches [of the USA] shall seek the aid of the civil power for the enforcement of their dogmas.” (The Great Controversy, p. 445)

Due to the experiences of the early immigrants, who had been persecuted in their home countries, special importance was attached in the USA to the free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state. The first amendment to the US-constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

So far, the US Supreme Court has defended this principle, but in the past decades it had always decided in such cases with a narrow 5-4 majority. Through the death of several liberal judges (appointed for life by the US president) and their replacement with conservative judges by President Donald Trump, it is to be expected that the strict separation of church and state in the USA will soon be perforated.

When the USA will get presidents like Donald Trump, such speaking like a dragon and those developments described in Rev 13 are more conceivable than they were a few years ago: measures leading to economic pressure and the persecution of faithful followers of Christ who are unwilling to worship the image of the beast and accept his mark (Rev 13:15-17).

More about how to identify the two beasts and their machinations can be found in my elaboration on Rev 13, which can be downloaded here.

Werner E. Lange is the retired book editor of the German Adventist Publishing House

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