F.) The second beast is introduced as the beast out of the earth. A religious power is being discussed evident from the signs. Though the beast has “two horns like a lamb,” a symbol signifying a godlike character similar to what was spoken of Christ, (see C. 5:6) but he speaks as “a dragon.” We noted earlier: The only dragon ever mentioned anywhere in God’s Word is Satan (despite what some translators and linguists have suggested of godly Rahab’s name … and, you will have to look this one up). The beast appears Christ-like, but has some of the same characteristics as Satan.
The second beast receives all the authority of the first, causing the earth to worship the first beast and to enforce penalty for those who will not. I suggest the sign has rightly been identified, not of popes, but of the influence of emperor worship. It is later referred to as the “false prophet” (c. 16:13 and onward).
All other interpretations lie outside of the stated principle of “things that must shortly come to pass.” You should recall that the term of the power of the two beasts is roughly parallel to the time of the woman (the early days of the church) “in the wilderness,” and of the length of time allotted to the testimony of the two (Apostolic) witnesses. This indicates the time in question is the first several decades beyond the establishment of the church and into the time of the first tribulations. There were no popes running around yet; and many modern theories stall at this point.
The more complicated theories of several teachers of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as B. W. Johnson, Albert Barnes, John T. Hinds, and a host of more modern and contemporary writers, posing that the continuous historical interpretations carry the prophecies into more modern days and well beyond – have distinct and insurmountable problems cramming their views into this small and narrow window. Many have attributed signs to Popes, Kings, and dictators including Napoleon, Hitler, and others now past, offering a historical interpretation from their times and in the future. Still more in our days look to fulfillment in the Advent or Millennium, which dear friends, is a device mostly employed by modern televangelists and false teachers who are intent on liberating money out of the hands of mislead and gullible people. These each require a mixed and highly unusual interpretation of the symbols. By that I mean, for example, as we have already discussed, they must interpret the seven heads of the first beast not as “kings” (as the narrative instructs us to do), but as “kingdoms;” and it requires that you invent a “battle of Armageddon,” which is also not found in the scriptures (anywhere). With these little twists and a few other inventions, they are at the least very inconsistent, and at the worst – just babblers. I would note, as preacher Bill Bass said, that… “they are altogether wrong.”
To keep it civil and on the simpler side, I will offer that the two beasts clearly represent Rome as noted for the reasons already posed. The first represents the emperors and the empire, while the second represents the religions and power of the empire and emperors (think Tribunes, Consuls, Senators, Legions and the temple/banking system with the emperor cults). They empowered it all as the enforcement arm of the beast
Take a look at Verse 13 where it is stated of the second beast: “…He makes fire to come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” I suggest this means precisely what it says as a reference to the expert application of trebuchets and catapults. Which did exactly what is being described: bringing “fire down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” Does this deserve grand theories and obscurity to be understood?