We can’t be sure when this character will begin his evil work. He will probably be involved with the false religious system all along, but apparently he will not become visible until the Antichrist is revealed—at the midpoint of the Tribulation. It is my guess that when the Antichrist destroys the harlot system, he will set aside this man to take the harlot’s place. But he will be careful to instruct him to be absolutely loyal to him and to promote him in everything. Here are nine aspect of his character and ministry, from Revelation 13:11-18.
1) He will be demon controlled. Scripture tells us that he comes up out of the earth. Hence, like the Antichrist, who comes up out of the sea, this suggests that he, like the Antichrist, is controlled by the demons who live below.
2) He will have great power, but will be weaker than the Antichrist. John MacArthur suggests that since he has only two horns, he will be less powerful than the Antichrist who has ten horns.1
3) He will be deceptively gentle. The Scripture tells us that he will be “like a lamb,” MacArthur again suggests that this imagery implies that he will be a false Christ, and that he will not come as a destroyer, like the Antichrist, but as one who appears gentle and attractive.2
4) He will speak for Satan. Though he will appear gentle as a lamb, he will speak “as a dragon.” This indicates that he will speak in a soft and appealing voice the words and message of the devil—for the devil always seeks to deceive us.
5) He will have all the authority of the Antichrist. Though he will be weaker in power (point 2), he will have the same kind of Satanic power as the Antichrist—to perform miracles, etc.; for the power will come from the same source, from Satan and the demons.
6) He will compel all people to worship the Antichrist. Though he will appear gentle as a lamb, all will know of his great power and capability of having anyone killed if they do not obey him (see v. 15).
7) He will perform great miracles. He will supposedly make fire come down out of heaven, but some suggest that it will be the tricks of a magician.
8) He will have others make an image of the beast. This image will apparently be very life-like and will be able to speak; and all who do not worship him will be killed. This is reminiscent of what happened in Daniel’s day when the king ordered all to fall down and worship his golden image or they would be cast into a fiery furnace (Dan. 3:1-7).
9) He will control all people by giving them a mark (the mark of the beast) on their right hand or forehead. People will be compelled to take the mark, because without it they will not be able to buy or sell anything.
1 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, John MacArthur’s notes of Revelation 13:11.