Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 13:1-4

Revelation 13:1-4

Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, and on its horns were ten diadem crowns, and on its heads a blasphemous name. 2 Now the beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. The dragon gave the beast his power, his throne, and great authority to rule. 3 One of the beast’s heads appeared to have been killed, but the lethal wound had been healed. And the whole world followed the beast in amazement; 4 they worshiped the dragon because he had given ruling authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast too, saying: Who is like the beast? and Who is able to make war against him?
(NET Bible)

One beast to rule them all: the antichrist

When asked by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2003 to vote on the best-loved work in the history of Britain, the people voted for J.R.R. Tolkiens epic high fantasy The Lord of the Rings. Infused with many Christian themes, Tolkiens work fashions an ancient age of earth in which good fights a death-struggle with personal evil. Its thematic poem mimics Satans true plans for the last age of our world:

One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them.

Revelation 13 introduces one of the most famous biblical personalities: the Antichrist, presented as the beast coming up out of the sea (13:1). He will be Satans primary leader to rule the world.

The hideous figure that rises from the sea bears a blasphemous name on each of its seven heads (13:1). Osborne says: These blasphemous names probably allude to the titles of divinity attributed to the Roman emperor (lord, savior, son of god, our lord and god).[1] Such titles would not only resonate for Johns original readers but would also fit in Satans plan to make the beast from the sea into a counterfeit Messiah at the end of history.

Satan, symbolized by the dragon, gives the Antichrist, symbolized by the beast from the sea, everything he needs to rule the world (13:2). But why does the world submit to such rule? The first reason is that they were dazzled by a miraculous mockery of Christs resurrection.

Grant Osborne describes the reaction of the whole world to the beasts recovery: They are deceived by the miracle (see also 13:13-14; 16:14) and do what the crowds failed to do in Jesus ministry: worship the beast.[2]

In explaining 13:5-6, Osborne describes Satans deception: Here we are at the heart of the blasphemy (13:1, 5) of the beast, deceiving the nations into worshiping him as God.[3] This sickening worship goes on for three and a half years (13:5). Worse still, only one group will refuse to worship the beast: those committed to the Lamb (13:8).

But a decision has to be made about the translation of 13:8b:

(NET) everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed.

(NIV 2011) all whose names have not been written in the Lambs book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

The correct translation hinges on which verb a Greek prepositional phrase modifies (see italics above), and numerous scholars take each side.[4] I side with Osborne in favor of the NIV 2011: It is better here to respect the [original] word order and recognize that it is Gods plan that has been established from the foundation of the world.[5]

Aside from the beast, the story of this chapter is told in 13:7, which says, The beast was permitted to go to war against the saints and conquer them. He is assisted by a second beast, another beast coming up from the earth (13:11), who is often called the false prophet (Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). Not only will the false prophet promote the worship of the Antichrist, but he will also organize the worlds commerce so that only those bearing the mark of the beast (13:17) can buy or sell anything.

666

Revelation 13:18 is legendary because of the number 666. I find Greg Beales idea simple and persuasive: The number 666 is likely no exception to Johns figurative use of numbers. The number seven refers to completeness and is repeated throughout the book. But 666 appears only here. This suggests that the triple sixes are intended as a contrast with the divine sevens throughout the book and signify incompleteness and imperfection.[6] Satan is not divine and neither is the beast; they can claim only to be perfect evil!

Do not take the fake!

A regrettable number of Christians have become caught up in following a teacher because of some complex interpretation of the beast or 666. Instead of speculation, we should focus on the revelation God provides us so that we can be prepared to represent Christ in a deceptive world.

In Tolkiens fantasy world, evil did not prevail, but for a time its power was ascendant. Likewise, in our own future the beast will be given authority to conquer the saints for a little while, but his destiny is not rulership but torment. Instead, Jesus will rule and we who overcome will rule with him. The Lamb was slain, but he did not stay that way!

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 491.

[2] Osborne, Revelation, 497.

[3] Osborne, Revelation, 498.

[4] The Greek word order favors the NIV translation (slain from the creation of the world), but Rev. 17:8 favors the NETs view (written since the foundation of the world).

[5] Osborne, Revelation, 503.

[6] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 721-722.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 12:3-9

Revelation 12:3-9

Then another sign appeared in heaven: a huge red dragon that had seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadem crowns. 4 Now the dragon’s tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.
5
So the woman gave birth to a son, a male child, who is going to rule over all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was suddenly caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and she fled into the wilderness where a place had been prepared for her by God, so she could be taken care of for 1,260 days.
Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels. 9 So that huge dragon the ancient serpent, the one called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world was thrown down to the earth, and his angels along with him.
(NET Bible)

War in heaven!

As a boy I learned my stellar constellations early. My favorites were Orion in winter — because of its bright supergiants named Rigel and Betelgeuse — and the summer constellation Sagittarius, which looks like a teapot and contains the galactic core of the Milky Way with its vast black hole.

I was also familiar with another constellation near the Big Dipper. It winds sinuously and dimly between the Big and Little Dippers and bears the name Draco, Latin for Dragon. In our brightly lit urban skies, you can hardly see it, but its namesake is our ancient enemy, the Dragon. He is more commonly called Satan.

Greg Beale[1] explains that chapter 12 is the start of most of Revelations remaining visions. It reveals that Satan is the driving force behind the persecution of the saints as well as being the one behind the beast, the false prophet and the whore named Babylon.

By now you know that no group of symbol-interpretations meets with universal acceptance, and most of the dispute falls on the identity of the woman (12:1-2). Craig Keener says: The woman represents Israel or the faithful remnant of Israel. . . . Scholars have found here hints of the story of Eve. God had promised that this womans seed [Jesus, the Messiah] would ultimately crush the serpent (Gen. 3:15), a promise surely echoed in Revelation 12:9, 17.[2] That identification seems correct to me.

We need not guess the identity of the dragon because John expressly identifies him in 12:9 as the ancient serpent, the one called the devil and Satan. Grant Osborne[3] explains that the dragon was a familiar symbol in every ancient culture; indeed, the dragon was a symbol closely associated with demonic powers throughout the ancient world.

Osborne[4] also interprets the seven heads and ten horns (12:3) by using the ancient idea that horns symbolized strength, especially military strength. He connects this section with 17:12-14 where the ten horns are explicitly identified as ten kings who give their authority to the beast.

Before trying to destroy the newborn Christ, Satan first led a revolt in heaven, described symbolically in 12:4. Keener says: Jewish people recognized that Satans revolt had long ago led to the fall of many angels (often associated with Gen. 6:2), a view supported by 1 Peter 3:19-22, 2 Peter 2:4.[5] The rebel Satan and his angelic allies attempt to destroy Jesus at birth (12:4). This may refer to King Herods attempt to find and kill the infant Messiah (Matt. 2) by using the wise men to locate him.

In an apparent reference to Jesus resurrection, John speaks of Jesus being caught up to God and to his throne (12:5) by using the forceful Greek verb harpaz? (snatch away).[6]

Rev. 12:6 informs us that a remnant of Israel — others say it is the church — will be preserved in some fashion for the 1260 days (42 months). This would appear to be the same period of time identified for the two witnesses (11:3) to speak out.

By any measure, Rev. 12:7 is one of the more astonishing statements in the Bible: Then war broke out in heaven. While the prior verses dealt largely with events on the earth, next we have an expansion of the idea broached in 12:4: Now the dragons tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth. Keener[7] informs us that in Revelation stars usually symbolize angels. When Satan rebelled, he took allies down with him.

A more literal translation of 12:8 would be: No longer was any place found for them [i.e., the dragon and his angels] in heaven. This is a divine passive! God found no place for Satan and his angels in heaven. The NLT aptly paraphrases, And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven (12:8, NLT).

Keener points out: Satans being hurled to the earth ends his position of privilege in Gods court. Ironically, Satans loss of place ([Greek] topos, 12:8) contrasts starkly with the place (topos) of refuge God provides his own people persecuted by Satan (12:6, 14).[8]

How goes the war?

No, I am not talking about Afghanistan or Iraq; nor do I speak of the dozens of smaller wars now occurring world-wide. Satan has waged total war against God, his people, and you personally from the beginning. Jesus said this about Satan: He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44).

Remember what Jesus said for our benefit: I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage I have conquered the world. (John 16:33).

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 622-623.

[2] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 314-315.

[3] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 458.

[4] Osborne, Revelation, 460.

[5] Keener, Revelation, 317-318.

[6] This same verb is used in 1 Thess. 4:17 to refer to the believers who will be suddenly caught up together with them [the dead in Christ, who rise first] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

[7] Keener, Revelation, 317.

[8] Keener, Revelation, 321.