J. A. Trench.
Article 54 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
Questions as to the Beast and False Prophet may need a more extended view of the scope of prophecy to make the answer intelligible than would be possible in our limited space.
It may be briefly noticed that there are two beasts in Revelation 13. The first, while it is identified by its seven heads with the past forms of the Roman Empire, owes this, its last phase, to Satanic power. (Ver. 2) One of its heads, doubtless the imperial, was wounded to death; but in the survival of this form of government at the close, all the world wondered after the beast. It is, in other words, the Satanically revived Roman Empire, which the world has yet to see. It is to continue for the last half of Daniel's seventieth week; variously described as "time, times, and half a time," or forty-two months, as here, or 1260 days (Rev. 11:3; Rev. 12:6), that is, the last three and a half years before the Lord comes to set up His kingdom. The character of the power is blasphemous, specially virulent against God and the heavenly saints. All that dwell on the earth — that characteristic class through the book of Revelation, who having had the heavenly calling presented to them, prefer the earth — worship him. Namely, all they whose names had not been written from the foundation of the world, in the book of life of the slain Lamb (as the verse ought to read.)
From Rev. 13:11, we have the second beast with lamb-like horns, counterfeiting Christ (as in Rev. 5:6), but with two horns instead of seven, while his mouth betrays his Satanic origin. He deceives the dwellers on earth by the great wonders he has power to do in the presence of the first beast. He is the Man of sin, the lawless one of 2 Thessalonians 2, who thus plays into the hands of the Roman power in the West, causing all to worship his image on pain of death; while in the East he comes out in his true character as the Antichrist, opposing and exalting himself against all that is called God, and setting up himself as the object of worship, in the rebuilt temple of God in Jerusalem.
We have this Satanic trinity of evil in Revelation 16:13, where unclean spirits come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. Revelation 19:20, gives us the end of the two last, who are taken in the last great confederation of the nations under their leadership against Christ and the saints who come with Him from heaven, and are cast into the lake of fire.
If the identification of the second beast with the man of sin be correct (as I have no doubt), 2 Thessalonians 2 shows that before his manifestation there must be the coming of our Lord Jesus, and our gathering to Him. Now, the powers that be are ordained of God, and exercise a restraint upon the full outbreak of lawlessness, headed up in the lawless one. Then they will be removed. "Ye know what withholdeth," verse 6, and then besides "He who now letteth" (or hindereth) "will let until he be — taken out of the way" — namely the Holy Ghost in the Church, before the manifestation of the man of sin.
In the study of Revelation it is most important to give heed to the threefold division of the book given us in Revelation 1:19, "the things which thou hast seen," namely the way the Lord presents Himself to John in chapter 1. Secondly, "the things which are," namely the present epoch, as long as the Church is still on earth, as Revelation 2, 3, and lastly, "the things which shall be after these things," namely from Revelation 4 on, when we hear no more of the Churches, but we all who are Christ's in the full effect of His coming, are enthroned, and with priestly robes and kingly crowns around the throne of God. Thus, however, — as often in prophecy, there may be a partial fulfilment of what is foretold, before the final accomplishment of it — all that follows upon Revelation 3, awaits its full fulfilment till the Church's history and existence upon earth is closed.