The False Prophet

The False Prophet Title

The Bible teaches that the end times will be marked by a great deception. Jesus spoke in His Olivet Discourse about false Christs and false prophets in the plural sense. John also spoke about many antichrists and many false prophets in his other epistles. However, in the end, there shall be a preeminent individual Antichrist, as well as a preeminent individual False Prophet.

This unique False Prophet is introduced in Revelation 13. There, he is described as the religious leader who leads people to worship Antichrist. In this sense, he mimics the Holy Spirit who leads people to worship Christ (John 15:26, John 16:13-14). He is thus the third person of the unholy trinity of the end times, which consists of Satan, Antichrist, and the False Prophet.

The Religion of the False Prophet

Since the False Prophet will be the great religious leader of the end times, it is important to understand the false religion that he promotes. Scripture makes it quite clear that his religion will be a form of false Christianity. He will call himself a Christian, and he will magnify Antichrist as the savior. He will seem to legitimize his authority by performing great signs and wonders.

Here are some reasons to understand his religion as false Christianity:

  • The term “false prophet” is always used in the Bible to refer to someone who claims to speak behalf of the one true God, but he does so falsely. It is not used to refer to leaders of overtly pagan religions or of unbelievers in general.
  • When Jesus spoke about the end times in Matthew 24:24, he said “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders”. These terms (false Christs, false prophets) could only mean people who are masquerading some form of Christianity.
  • The same verse (Matt 24:24) continues with “so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”. The idea that the deception would (if possible) mislead the elect (those who follow Christ) surely indicates a religion that has a great resemblance to Christianity.
  • Paul in 2 Cor 11:13-15 said “13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds”. This passage explains that Satan and His servants generally work by mimicking God and His servants. Thus, Satan’s servants are called “false apostles” who “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness“. Satan himself appears as an angel of light, meaning that he feigns holiness and truthfulness in order to deceive. It’s like counterfeit money; the more it looks like the real thing, the better the deception will be. Satan’s counterfeit Christianity will be in full force in the end times.
  • We see that the final deception appears to include a deliberate mimicking the Christian Trinity:
Holy Trinity Unholy Trinity
1 God the Father Satan, who desires to be God (Isa 14:13-14).
2 Jesus Christ, who came to do the will of the Father, by His authority (John 5:30). Antichrist, who comes to do the will of Satan, by his authority (Rev 13:2).
3 Holy Spirit, who leads people to worship Christ (John 16:13-14). False Prophet, who leads people to worship Antichrist (Rev 13:12)

The Success of the Deception

To a large extent, the Christian Church of today has increasingly placed emphasis on things like worldly prosperity, political activism, media attention, and emotional religious experiences. Meanwhile, emphasis on solid Biblical doctrine has been declining. This has created an environment ripe for deception, and the prophecies indicate that the deception will be successful:

2 Tim 4:3-4 – 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. – I tend to think that this prophecy is being fulfilled today, and as a result, many people in churches are highly susceptible to deception.

2 Thes 2:8-12 – 8Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. – This tells us that signs and wonders will create a deception of wickedness which will successfully deceive those who did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. God will actually use this deluding influence for His own purpose of exposing those people who should be judged, since they will be identified as those who believe what is false and who take pleasure in wickedness. Many of those who succumb to this delusion will be professing Christians. Since they neglect true doctrine, they will also lack the ability to discern between true and false signs and wonders. They shall be deluded, and they shall be judged.

Matt 24:10-11, 10“At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11“Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. – Jesus says “many will fall away“, meaning that people who once appeared to be believers (or even thought they were) will turn away from the true faith and join the persecution of those who remain. There shall even be many churches that are led by false prophets, and they will mislead their congregations into the deception.

2 Thes 2:3 – Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. – Paul speaks of an event called “the apostasy” or (as some translations say) “the falling away”, which corresponds with the appearance of Antichrist (the son of destruction). This is when the False Prophet will deceive people into worshiping Antichrist, which is called apostasy because many professing Christians will be among those who follow him.

2 Tim 3:1-7 – 1But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,4treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power – This passage describes evil men in the last days. Importantly it says they will “hold to a form of godliness“, which indicates that they not only do evil, but they do it while falsely claiming to be acting as God’s servants.

2 Tim 3:13But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. – This again describes an increasing evil among men, significantly referring to them as impostors. Again, this term implies a deception in that they will be doing evil under the pretense of godliness. They will be successfully deceiving themselves as well as others.

Passages that refer to the False Prophet

The references that specifically refer to the False Prophet all appear in Revelation. The primary passage is from chapter 13:

Rev 13:11-17 – 11Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. 12He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.

In short, the first beast (Antichrist) will be joined by another beast.  This other beast is a man who has the appearance of a lamb, but speaks as a dragon. Recall that in Revelation, Christ is often referred to as the Lamb, and Satan is often referred to as the Dragon. It’s clear then that this False Prophet will appear to represent Christ, but his words and actions will actually serve Satan. He will be involved with staging an apparent “death and resurrection” (a fatal wound that was healed) of Antichrist. He will be the one who performs the great signs on behalf of Antichrist, giving tremendous (but false) credibility to Antichrist’s status as the “savior” from God, and even as an object of worship. This False Prophet is all about deception.

Rev 16:13-14 – 13And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; 14for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty..

This is figurative language pertaining to the sixth bowl event, in which Antichrist (the beast) and the False Prophet gather the armies of the nations at Armageddon with intent to wipe out the remnant of Israel. Antichrist will provide the political motivation for this, and the False Prophet will provide the religious justification. We see that the religious justification will be include demonic miraculous signs, possibly to deceive the nations into thinking their cause is right and that they will be victorious.

Rev 19:20 – And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.

This event takes place upon the return of Christ, and we see that the False Prophet shall share the same fate as Antichrist (the beast).

Rev 20:10 – And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

After the millennium kingdom, the entire unholy trinity will be reunited in the lake of fire when Satan goes there to join Antichrist and the False Prophet. Later, they shall be joined by all people whose names were not found in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 20:15).

A Preview of the False Prophet

As discussed The Antichrist, the Bible sometimes uses “types“.  A type is a person who precedes a greater person and is similar to the greater person in some significant way. The Bible thus uses the type person as sort of a living metaphor, preview, or example of the greater person. Such type-based metaphors are not simply metaphors invented by observant theologians, they are deliberately provided in God’s Word for our enlightenment.

In scripture, we have seen types of Christ and types of Antichrist, but are there any persons mentioned in scripture who serve as a type of False Prophet?  I believe the answer is yes, and that they are Pharoah’s magicians, among which were two known as Jannes and Jambres.

Pharoah is himself a type of Antichrist, and so it would figure that Pharaoh’s magicians (or sorcerers) would be a type for Antichrist’s False Prophet. Below is the main account of Pharoah’s magicians from Exodus:

Ex 7:8-13 – 8Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 9“When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Work a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the LORD had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. 12For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

There are some interesting parallels between Pharaoh’s magicians and Antichrist’s False Prophet:

  • The magicians served Pharaoh to oppose God. Likewise, the False Prophet will serve Antichrist to oppose God.
  • The magicians mimicked the miracles that God performed through Moses. Likewise, the False Prophet will perform signs and wonders that will mimic the power of God (e.g. compare 1 Kings 18:38 with Rev 13:13).
  • The magicians were able to mimic the miracles of God for a while, but before long they were unable to compete with what God could do (Exodus 8:18-19). Likewise, the False Prophet will do some amazing things, but before long, it will become clear that his power is no match for the power of God.

Adding to the parallelism, the Apostle Paul used the magicians of Pharaoh (Jannes and Jambres) as a metaphor for the opposition of truth and ultimate failure that will take place in the last days:

2 Tim 3:1-9 – 1But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.

Pharaoh’s magicians were ultimately exposed as failures when they opposed the truth, and so it shall be for the False Prophet. In both cases, their efforts to oppose God and oppose truth will prove to be worst kind of folly.

Opinions Regarding the False Prophet

I reserve this last section for my own opinions and speculations regarding the False Prophet, based on my assessment of the prophecies.

Opinion: Who Will He Be?

The information about his identity given by scripture tells us that:

  • He will be recognized around the world as a legitimate religious leader.
  • As discussed above, his purported religion is Christianity.
  • The discussion of Rev 17:18 in chapter 17 indicates that the religious center will be in Rome.

From this, I believe that it’s most probable that the False Prophet will be a Pope of the Roman Catholic Church (who is also known as the Bishop of Rome). There is simply nobody else who can fit these scriptural descriptions so perfectly. Additionally, the Pope’s (assumed) power to speak Ex Cathedra (infallibly such that dissenters commit the mortal sin of heresy) is the perfect tool for a false prophet to enforce his doctrine of worshiping Antichrist.

There is a description of the “Great Harlot” in Rev 17:4, and this harlot represents idolatry (i.e. false religion). In her depiction, she is wearing scarlet, purple, gold, and precious stones. If there are any religious entities on earth most associated with such things, it is the Roman Catholic Church, it’s center at the Vatican within Rome, and the attire with which the Roman Catholic leaders adorn themselves.

Side note: Some commentators propose that the False Prophet will be Jewish. Their reasons for this proposal, and my arguments against it, are discussed in the chapter 13 commentary.

Opinion: What Will He Be Like?

The figurative description of him in Rev 13:11 is: “he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon“ This tells us that the False Prophet will seem meek, humble, and probably will speak glowingly about Christ. But his words shall be full of subtle and fatal lies. The greatest lie is that he will falsely identify Antichrist as the Savior from God.

Assuming that I am correct about him being a Pope, I think that the character of the False Prophet will be in line with the character we’ve witnessed within the leadership of the of the Roman Catholic Church:

  • The rampant child molestation situation was publicly addressed by offering soothing words, expressing regrets, hope for the future, and prayers of mercy and compassion for the victims. And yet, all the while they worked to protect themselves legally, and they dealt with many abusive priests only by moving them from one place to another. I expect that the False Prophet will exhibit this same duplicitous behavior — apparently upholding an air of holiness, while secretly doing whatever is expedient to conceal evil and enhance his reputation.
  • The ongoing interfaith outreach of the Roman Catholic Church is also relevant. They’ve become increasingly open to other religions, even making overtures to appease them. For example, the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church includes this statement concerning Islam:
         “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge
         the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims;
         these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us
         they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the final day.”

    I expect that the False Prophet will be extremely welcoming and gracious to all faiths except true Christianity. Of course, he will be claiming that the true Christians are the apostates. His openness to other religions, his charisma, his worldwide fame, in addition to his signs and wonders, will make him accepted as the primary and even beloved religious authority throughout the world.

If indeed the False Prophet will be a Pope, we should expect to see a trend in which Popes (and the Roman Catholic Church overall) become increasingly accepting of popular worldly viewpoints that are nevertheless in opposition to scripture. This is because the final Pope must be popularly accepted by the world.

Opinion: What Will He Do?

As mentioned earlier, his primary objective is to lead people into the worship of Antichrist. For this purpose, he will somehow be able to perform signs and wonders, such as calling fire down from the sky. He will also be behind the apparent resurrection of the Antichrist (who is said to have a fatal wound that healed). He will provide some sort of image of Antichrist, and he will cause people to worship this image.

Not everyone will be willing to worship Antichrist. It will become necessary to distinguish between those who are true and loyal worshipers of Antichrist, and those who are not. To that end, the False Prophet will institute a massive program by which people are tested for loyalty to Antichrist. Those who pass the test will be awarded some sort of physical marking, which the Bible calls the “mark of the beast”. This mark will be the unholy counterpart to baptism, and it will be a baptism to damnation for those who receive the mark. However, this mark will allow the recipients to engage in commerce (buying and selling goods). This mark will effectively enforce a rationing of goods to only those who are deemed worthy, making life even more difficult for true Christians who will refuse the mark.

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