|A364 : by Tony Garland
The nature of the image of the beast
Your question concerns one of the most puzzling aspects of prophecy—perhaps anywhere in the Bible: what is "the image" and how can it be said to be given life?
We know that the image (εἰκόνα [eikona]) is a “representation” or “likeness” of the first beast. It is not the beast himself, yet remarkably similar — having the same form.
This same term for “image” is also used to describe how believers have born the image of the man of dust, but will eventually bear the image of the man of heavenly [man] (1Cor. 15:49).
The term also describes Jesus as the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Although Jesus represents or reveals aspects of the Father—which cannot be seen, He is not the Father. It would seem we can safely conclude that the image is not the beast, but an accurate representation which is eventually given life (breath) so as to be able to animate and speak in some independent manner from the beast himself.
This image is "made" (from ποιεω [poieō]) — “to cause to be, create or fashion.” Interestingly, the creation of the image is not uniquely the work of the second beast, as one might have expected. Instead, it is made by “those who dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 13:14). The immense and powerful miracle of the second beast is not in making the lifeless image, but in giving breath to the image.
This seems to indicate that, although “those who dwell on the earth” have the sufficient (technological?) ability to create the image, they lack the ability to make it live. That enormous deception—in my opinion, a true miracle granted by God which points to a falsehood—is required before the image can take wilful action (both to “speak” and to “cause”, Rev. 13:15).
This passage seems to describe the creation of something that is initially lifeless. This would be akin to the relatively crude idols of the Old Testament—the work of men's hands, which can neither see or speak. My view is that it represents the apex of what our technological advances will be able to achieve in creating an idol of the beast. Perhaps it will be of a electro-mechanical nature or the result of continued advances in biotechnology. But all this is speculation.
Whatever manner of non-living construction the image comprises, it is given life—thereafter possessing real living abilities—by the second beast. This, of course, raises a host of additional questions which I’m not prepared or equipped to speculate upon.
I don't believe this is just talking about an advanced simulation—the sort of things which could be done even today using advanced computer animation, holograms, or such. I don't think the text is pointing in that direction. This is positioned as an apex miracle—on a par with the rising of the beast himself. These two coming to life miracles — the one resulting in the revival of the first beast (Rev. 13:3-4; 17:8), the other animating his image—are the sealing deceptions for those who remain opposed to the truth in that terminal generation.
In summary: I view the image of the beast to be an advanced idol, probably of here-to-fore unknown future technological origin, which is brought to life at the hands of the second beast. In the same way that men of old made idols of wood and stone, this idol is fashioned by godless hands using more advanced technological abilities, like we might attribute to silicon, biotech and AI in our own day. As amazing as the (lifeless) technology involved in fashioning the idol, it still will not live without the miraculous intervention granted by God to the second beast for the purpose of deceiving those who dwell upon the earth.
Aspects of the mark of the beast
Regarding the possibility that the mark serves both as an identifier and as a means of participating in the global economy, I mention this possibility in my commentary on Revelation 13:16a.
It is certainly within the realm of possibility for the mark to serve both as a single identifier of allegiance to the Beast and a globally unique identifier. All that is required is to combine an outward visible mark (indicating shared allegiance) with an invisible digital code (indicating unique identification). The external mark would function to readily cull the disobedient from the obedient while the invisible code would provide the necessary means for digital monetary exchange in the controlled economy of the end.1
The thing that is beyond amazing about these events in the book of Revelation is how much more possible they seem in our day than when John was given the Revelation circa 95 A.D. Not that the ultimate miracles are more possible now than ever, but that related aspects are easier to envision (e.g., a global economy, ability to control individuals using identifiers, global communication, ability to fashion the most lifelike idol ever conceived—yet still without life). One wonders how many skeptics from the first- or second-century would have paid closer attention if they could have transported forward in time to the 21st century to see our technological advances and how even the globalist political agenda continues to advance on a path leading inexorably to fulfillment of divine Revelation of old.