Sunday, March 27, 2016

THE BEAST FROM THE SEA: REVELATION 13:1-10

Revelation 13
Beast 1 and Beast 2

Revelation 12 showed us Satan’s expulsion from heaven and his failure to destroy the Messiah. In his anger and frustration, he turned on the church. He stood on the sand of the sea (12:17) as if to claim the whole world for himself in opposition to God.  To attack the church, Satan will use two powerful entities. In chapter 13, these entities are referred to as beasts.

Beast 1: The Beast From The Sea
13:1-10
As John watched the vision, he saw a great and terrifying beast arise from the sea. This is John’s description of the beast:
-10 horns
-7 heads
-10 diadems on its horns
-blasphemous names on its heads
-it looked like a leopard with feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion.

This is the beast mentioned in Revelation 11:7, making war on the saints.

The first thing we notice is the beast seems to be a combination of the beasts seen by Daniel in his vision recorded in Daniel 7. Daniel saw 4 beasts come out of the sea. (Dan. 7:3) One was like a lion, one like a bear, one like a leopard. Then he saw a 4th, terrifying beast with four heads. Dominion given to it. (Dan, 7:7) It also had 10 horns. It destroyed everything in its path. This beast was destroyed by the Lord at the end of the age. (Dan. 7:11) It was the Roman empire, but a type of something worse to come.

We see the beast in Revelation 13 looks a lot like the 4th beast seen by Daniel. But the Beast from the Sea also has characteristics of the prior beasts, having parts of a leopard, bear and lion.  This beast is a culmination of all of the others and more powerful than them all.

One interpretive clue we have here is that the beasts of Daniel 7 were kingdoms. We saw Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. On this basis, we can see that the beast of Revelation 13 is also a kingdom.

The 4th beast of Daniel 7 was different than the others, though. (Dan. 7:7) It was terrifying, dreadful and exceedingly strong. It devoured and broke into pieces everything in its path. It had 10 horns, signifying great power. In the interpretation of Daniel’s dream, he was told that this beast, which is a kingdom, would speak words against the Most High, or blaspheme, and wear out the saints, the church. (Dan. 7:25) He would do all this for 42 months. Then he would be destroyed.

The beast from the sea appears to be the 4th beast of Daniel 7, or at least based on it. It appears to be a culmination of all the previous powerful kingdoms, because it has parts like a leopard, a lion and a bear. (13:2) Like the 4th beast of Daniel 7, it is more powerful that any preceding kingdom. We see this in the 10 horns, symbolic of complete power. It had great authority to rule, symbolized by 10 diadems on the horns. It had great ability to deceive, shown by the 7 heads.

The beast blasphemes like the beast in Daniel. It has blasphemous names on its head. (13:1) This means it takes names applicable only to God and applies them to the kingdom or its ruler. These might be “Lord God”, “King of KIngs” or “Savior”.

The Beast in Revelation is allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (13:7), as the Beast in Daniel was allowed to “wear out the saints”. He will also have 42 months to act. Again, this period is the church age.

How did the beast obtain such great power?John tells us in verse 3. Satan, the dragon, gave the beast his power, his throne and great authority. John also shows us this symbolically: both the dragon and the beast have ten horns and seven heads. All of the great power Satan wields to persecute God’s people is concentrated in this kingdom. The power to rule the earth in opposition to God is also given. And so this great and powerful kingdom, no doubt with a dominant ruler, will dominate the world through strength of arms and powerful deception.

Remember that Paul warned us that our battles are ultimately all spiritual battles. He told us to put on the whole armor of God so that we “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil”. (Ephesians 6:11) He said we wrestle against the spiritual forces of evil. (Eph. 6:12) John shows us what Paul told us: persecutors receive their power from the devil.

Verse 3 adds an interesting dimension to the beast. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal would, but was healed. This caused the whole world to follow the beast and even worship him.

The original audience for this book was the church in Asia, what is now Turkey. They certainly would have seen the beast as the Roman Empire. And it was. The empire persecuted Christianity and, at times, seem to almost destroy it. The Empire deified its emperors. They were declared to be gods, temples were built for their worship and offerings were made to them. Eventually, emperor worship was required. Those who did not worship the emperor faced economic difficulties, being excluded from certain jobs and trades. They were sent into exile, they were tortured, imprisoned and killed.

There was also a belief in Rome that Nero came to life again after his suicide. This may be the history behind this story. And, the Roman Empire itself went into decline, the came back into dominance.  One thing is certain, it is Satan’s counterfeiting of Christ’s resurrection. Indeed we will see Satan and his beasts counterfeit the persons and work of the Trinity.

But the Beast works over the entire church age. We know this because both Daniel 7 and Revelation shows the Beast destroyed by Jesus at the end of this age. The Roman Empire was the first type. But there have been others. At the end of this age, it will be a government that has power to persecute the church all over the world.

There is one group that stands against the world and against the Beast. These people refuse to worship the Beast or the Dragon. They were, and are, those whose names were written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world. In other words, those who believe in Jesus and commit their lives to him will not worship the Beast. They will accept the consequences, no matter how terrible, rather than recant their faith.

Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna in 155 A.D., not that long after the writing of Revelation. Smyrna is one of the 7 churches to whom the letter of Revelation is written. He refused to offer an incense offering to the emperor and said “Caesar is Lord”. He was publicly executed. Two thousand years later, an Islamic group has executed may Christians who refused to deny Christ. The Beast goes on.

Notice the last words of verse 10: “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints”. This is the theme of the book. It is not “do not worry, we will be taken away before it gets bad”. 
Post a Comment