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30 December 2018

The Beast from the Sea – (Revelation 13:1-10)

Augustus
Augustus
Chapter 12 portrayed Satan as the Dragon, the Old Serpent from the Garden of Eden poised to destroy the promised seed. His effort failed; God countered by elevating the “son” to reign from the Throne. The Serpent’s plan resulted in his expulsion from the heavenly court. Enraged and with little time remaining, the Dragon turns his violent plot against the “woman” who birthed the messianic “seed.” The chapter ends with the Dragon in pursuit of her “seed,” identified as they who have the testimony of Jesus.
Chapter 13 opens with the Dragon standing beside a sea as he summons his first earthly agent, the Beast from the sea. The key Old Testament passage used is Daniel’s vision of four beasts that ascend out of a tumultuous sea (Daniel 7:1-8). In addition, the interpretation from Daniel 7:21-24 is employed in this next passage’s interpretation (13:7-10).
(Daniel 7:1-8) – “I saw in my vision by night, the four winds of heaven brake forth upon the great sea. And four great beasts ascended from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings…the second was like a bear, and it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth…I beheld another like a leopard, which had upon its back four wings of a bird…and a fourth beast…it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.”
(Daniel 7:21, 25) – “The same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them….And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and he shall think to change the times and the law, and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time.”
The four beasts in Daniel Chapter 7 represent four consecutive kingdoms, the first being Babylon (Daniel 2:38).
(Revelation 13:1-2) – “And he stood upon the sands of the sea. And I saw a Beast ascending out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and upon its horns ten diadems, and upon its head a name of blasphemy. And the Beast I saw was like a leopard, and its feet like a bear, and its mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the Dragon gave to it his power and his throne and great authority.”
The Dragon implements his plan to destroy the “rest of the Woman’s seed” by raising up his “seed,” the beasts from the sea and the earth (13:11-18). This is the battle between the “seed” of the Woman and the “seed” of the Serpent (Genesis 3:15). The Dragon is standing on the seashore to summon his beasts.
“And he stood upon the sands of the sea” (estathė epi tėn ammon tės thalassė). There is a verbal link to the final conflict at the end of the thousand-years when “Satan was loosed out of his prison, and he will come forth to deceive the nations…to gather them to the war, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea” (hė ammos tės thalassė). That final “army” will, likewise, “ascend” from the four corners of the earth to wage war against the saints (20:7-9).
And I saw a Beast ascending out of the sea.” This language is from Daniel’s vision of “four great beasts ascending from the sea.” “Ascending” translates a Greek participle in the present tense (anabainon), that is, progressive action. It describes not a single incident but an ongoing process.
The ascent of the beast was introduced in the vision of the two witnesses. At the end of their prophetic witness, “the Beast, the one ascending out of the Abyss will make war with them” (11:7). The same present tense participle is now used, anabainon. The “Sea” is identical with the “Abyss.” The theme of evil “ascending” (anabainon) from the Abyss/Sea repeats in Revelation; the Beast from the sea, the beast from the earth, and Satan’s final assault against the saints all “ascend” from the same dark place:
(11:7) – “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that is ascending out of the Abyss will make war with them, overcome them, and kill them.”
(13:11) – “And I saw another beast ascending out of the earth.”
(17:8) – “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is going to ascend out of the abyss, and to go into perdition.”
(20:7-9) – “When the thousand years are finished, Satan will be loosed out of his prison, and will come forth to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they ascended over the breadth of the earth, and encompassed the camp of the saints.”
Ascending out of the sea.” The “sea” refers not to the Aegean Sea but to the glassy “sea” John saw “before the throne, a sea of glass like a crystal” (4:6). At this point, John is still “in the spirit” before the throne.
The previous expulsion of the Dragon from heaven meant “woe to the earth and to the sea” (12:12). This is now followed by the ascent of the Beast from the sea. There is no contradiction; two different realities are intended by “sea.” Elsewhere, when the terrestrial “sea” is meant it is combined with the “earth” (e.g., 5:13; 7:1; 8:8; 10:2; 14:7).
Later, John will see “a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that come off victorious from the Beast…standing by the sea” (15:2). The sea “like crystal” is associated with the Beast, which is why in the new heaven and new earth “the sea is no more” (21:1-2).
And I saw a Beast.” The Greek noun for “beast” (thérion) normally refers to a “wild beast,” not a domesticated animal. In classic Greek, thérion was the diminutive form of “beast” (thėr). Likewise, in Revelation, “lamb” represents the diminutive form or arnion. The Dragon’s chief agent is a wild animal but God’s designated ruler is the Lamb. “Beast” in Greek is always in the neuter gender and so are the pronouns and participles used with it.
Daniel saw four “beasts” that symbolized four consecutive kingdoms, “diverse one from another.” John sees a single beast with the characteristics from all four of Daniel’s beasts (e.g., lion, bear, leopard, ten horns), and he lists the four creatures in reverse order from what Daniel saw.  Revelation’s single beast is an amalgam of all four of Daniel’s beasts; it is related to them but is something even worse; this Beast is related to but is not identical with the four beasts of Daniel.
The Beast has seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on the horns. The number seven derives from the individual heads of Daniel’s four beasts; the lion, the bear, and the fourth beast, plus the four heads of the leopard. The crowns or “diadems” are, likewise, from Daniel’s vision where the ten horns represented “ten kings” (Daniel 7:24).
And upon its head names of blasphemy.” Some Greek manuscripts read “names of blasphemy,” others “the name (singular) of blasphemy.” The manuscript evidence is evenly divided. If plural, blasphemous names imprinted on each head are in view, presumptions of divinity and authority. Because there are seven heads, the plural form is most likely the original one.
The Dragon also had “seven heads and ten horns” (12:3), only it had seven diadems on its seven heads. Instead,’ the Beast has ten diadems on its ten horns. This demonstrates the familial link between the Dragon and the Beast; the latter is the offspring of the former. The diadems on the Dragon’s heads demonstrate his superior authority; he rules through his earthly minions, including the Beast from the sea.
The number seven represents completeness; here, the complete political authority of the Beast (13:7, “there was given to it authority over every tribe, tongue and nation”). The seven “heads” demonstrate the Beast is more than an individual human ruler (cp. Revelation 17:7-10). Its “ten horns” are later linked to “ten kings” (17:12).
The “seven diadems” represent the Beast’s claim to political sovereignty over the earth in opposition to the Lamb. But its claim is “blasphemous” because the Lamb is the true “ruler of the kings of the earth” and the “king of kings” (1:4-55:6-1417:14).
The Beast’s claim is the counterfeit of the Lamb’s declared authority; its political authority is derived from Dragon (“the Dragon gave it his power, his throne and great authority”). But the Dragon was already defeated by the Lamb, the “son” who is “to shepherd the nations.” Though Satan is now loose on the earth and able to inflict harm, his ability to do so is only for “a short while” (12:7-12).
The Beast is observed “ascending” out of the sea. Its seven heads may represent seven kingdoms. It is an amalgamation of all four of Daniel’s beasts. Its animal components are listed in reverse order from what Daniel saw. All this suggests that the Beast is a trans-historical phenomenon, a political reality that has existed for thousands of years and appeared periodically in slightly different forms (cp. Genesis 11:1-9). But the Beast has one final form remaining that is yet to be seen on the earth.
(Revelation 13:3-6) – “And one of its heads as slain unto death, and the plague of its death was healed. And the whole earth marveled after the Beast, and rendered homage to the Dragon, because he gave his authority to the Beast; and they rendered homage to the Beast, saying, Who is like the Beast and who can make war with it? And there was given to it a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and it was given to it to act forty and two months. And it opened its mouth for slander against God, to slander his name, and his tabernacle, those who were tabernacling in heaven.”
The slaying of the Beast’s head echoes the prophecy from Genesis 3:15:  “I will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.” It is not the entire Beast that is slain, only one of its seven heads.
The verb for “slain” is sphazō; to “slay; slaughter.” It is a Greek word for the slaying of sacrificial animals, here it is combined with the adverb hōs (hōsesphagmenėn). This same combination was applied to the Lamb “as having been slain” when John saw him standing before the throne (hōs esphagmenon [5:6]).
Thus, there is a conceptual link between the deaths of the Lamb and the Beast’s head. Its death and “resurrection” mimic that of the Lamb. This understanding is confirmed in verse 14 where the Beast had the “stroke of the sword and lived [ezésen].” The same form of the verb was applied to Jesus as the one “who became dead and lived[ezésen]” (2:8).
The head was slain by a “plague of death” (plégé). How this was administered is not specified. Plégé may mean “strike” but in Revelation it means “plague” (9:18-20; 11:6; 15:1-8; 16:9; 16:21; 18:4; 18:8). This suggests that God or the Lamb is the real cause of this death. The next vision describes the blow as the “stroke of a sword” (13:14).
The death and restoration of the head parallels the Dragon’s defeat and expulsion from heaven, after which he retained his ability to deceive the earth (12:9-12). The Dragon was allowed a “short season” in which to vent his rage. Unlike the resurrection of the Lamb, the life of the Dragon is extended only for a limited period; it does not reverse his ultimate defeat, which was accomplished by the death of the Lamb (12:10-12).
The Beast’s restoration to life is based on Daniel 7:11-12: “the beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.”
Only one of the Beast’s seven heads was slain. Elsewhere, the seven heads represent seven kingdoms (Revelation 17:10). This means that this is not the death of an individual man but the fall of a regime.
The “whole earth” marveled after the Beast because it continued to live. This refers to all humanity in rebellion against God, “the inhabitants of the earth” (3:106:108:1311:1013:8-1417:217:8). Men who worship the Beast render homage to the Dragon, the power behind the throne. “Render homage” signifies, not “worship” in a religious sense, but an act of obeisance to someone of higher rank; the giving of allegiance to the Dragon.
The proclamation, “who is like the Beast,” is a parody of declarations about God (e.g., Exodus 15:11 [“Who is like you, O Yahweh, among the gods?”]. cp. Psalm 35:10113:5). The “inhabitants of the earth” ascribe to the Beast honors that belong to God. But the question has already been answered. The Beast has the heads, horns, and the authority of the Dragon; he is just like the Great Red Dragon, the ancient serpent.
Who can make war with the Beast?” The declaration is ironic. In the previous chapter, the Dragon was defeated in the “war” against Michael. Lacking the revealed insight of the saints, the “inhabitants of the earth” do not understand that they serve a defeated master.
Awed by the Beast, the “inhabitants of the earth” offer it their total allegiance. The Beast has no need to wage war on other nations; they whose names are not written “in the Lamb’s book of life” freely give their allegiance to it (13:8).
The Beast is “given” a mouth spewing great slander. “Given” is in the passive voice; someone or something authorized this “mouth” to speak. Elsewhere, the same verb refers to authority “given” by God or the Lamb to an agent assigned to carry out the Divine will (6:1-87:28:39:1-5). The mouth speaks “great things and blasphemies,” an allusion to the little horn from Daniel 7:8.
The Beast is given authority to operate for “forty-two months,” the same period during which the “holy city is tread under foot” (11:2). In Daniel, the fourth beast “trampled the remnant with its feet” for the designated period, “time, times and part of a time” (Daniel 7:19-258:10). That was the period when the little horn was allowed to “speak words against the Most-High, wear out the saints, and presume to change seasons and law.”
In Revelation, this same period is variously defined as “forty-two months,” “twelve hundred and sixty days,” and a “time, times and half a time” (11:2-3; 12:6; 12:14; 13:5). The different forms are numerically equivalent; they refer to the same period. But the “forty-two months” during which the Beast’s mouth hurls accusations is especially related to the forty-two months when the outer court of the sanctuary was “given to the nations; and the holy city will they trample under foot forty and two months” (11:2). The same reality is in view, though from different aspects.
The Beast is authorized to slander God, His name, His sanctuary, even those who “tabernacle in heaven.” The imagery is not from the Temple in old Jerusalem but from the portable Tabernacle carried by Israel in the wilderness (15:5, “after these things I saw the sanctuary of the tent of testimony in heaven”).
The “trampling” of the sanctuary’s outer court is an aspect of the reality now described as the Beast’s profanation of God and His tabernacle. The “priests” previously seen worshiping in the sanctuary are identical with those who “tabernacle in heaven” (11:1). Thus, during this period, the Beast is authorized to slander and otherwise “trample underfoot” the saints.
The ones who “tabernacle in heaven” are not supernatural beings but believers contrasted with nonbelievers, the “inhabitants of the earth” (cp. 3:10). The Greek verb for “tabernacling” is skénoō, from the noun skéné or “tent, tabernacle,” the same noun used in the Greek Septuagint version for the “tabernacle” of Israel (Exodus 25:926:1-35). Elsewhere, both noun and verb portray God’s people as His “tabernacle” (Revelation 15:521:3).
This understanding is demonstrated by verse 6: “His name and his tabernacle, those tabernacling in heaven.” There is no conjunction, no “and” preceding the last clause. “Those that tabernacling in heaven” is in apposition to “his tabernacle” and defines it. The New American Standard Version reflects this sense, rendering it, “His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.”
Blasphemy” refers not to profanity but to slander, false accusations against God’s people (2:93:912:10). Among the seven churches of Asia, this manifested in accusations before local magistrates against Christians.
(Revelation 13:7-10) – “And it was given to it to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and there was given it authority over all tribes and peoples and tongues and nations. And all they who are dwelling upon the earth will render homage to it, everyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear: let him hear. If anyone is for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be slain with sword, with sword must he be slain; here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.”
The Beast from the sea is Satan’s agent assigned to annihilate the saints. For a time, it is given authority over all nations and peoples with which to execute this task. Humanity is divided into two groups:  men and women who render homage to the Beast, and men and women who do not. The latter, consequently, suffer persecution and martyrdom.
The divine paradox is that the Beast’s “victory” over the saints is the very thing that vindicates them but causes its downfall. Martyrdom is not contrary to God’s redemptive plan, but integral to it.
The image of the Beast having authority over all nations alludes to Daniel 3:4-7, a passage on which the subsequent vision of the Beast from the earth is built (Revelation 13:11-16).
(Daniel 7:21) – “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.”
(Daniel 3:4-7) – “Therefore, at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the cornet…all the peoples, nations, and tongues fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”
(Daniel 12:1) – “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people will be delivered, everyone that will be found written in the book.”
    The repeated use of Daniel 7:21 links several passages that deal with the same subject matter. Whether the Dragon wages “war” against Michael, the Lamb, “saints,” the “seed of the woman,” or “they who have the testimony of Jesus,” it amounts to the same thing. Satan attacks the Lamb by persecuting everyone whose name is written in his book of life. Compare the following:
(11:7) – “When they finish their testimony, the Beast that is ascending out of the Abyss will make war with them, overcome them, and kill them.”
(12:17) – “The dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, they that keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.”
(13:7) – “And it was given to it to make war with the saints and to overcome them.”
(17:14) – “These will war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings.”
The Beast’s war against the saints is the same reality as its “war” against the two witnesses and the “seed of the woman” (11:7, 12:17). It is the outworking on the earth of the heavenly “war” between the Dragon and Michael. “Enraged” after his expulsion from heaven, the Dragon begins his final assault against the “saints.”
Chapter 13 nowhere refers to any wars by the Beast against nations that involve standing armies. Whether the Beast wages war against other regimes, is not the concern of the passage.
The Beast is not able to persecute the saints until the authority to do so is “given to it” (edothé). This is the same formula used in verse 5 where it was given a mouth speaking blasphemies against God “and them that tabernacle in the heaven.” This demonstrates that “those who tabernacle in heaven” is identical with the “saints” in verse 7.
Elsewhere, the category of “saints” refers to men and women from every ethnic group redeemed by the Lamb (e.g., 5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 20:9).
  The passage ends with the exhortation, “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints” (13:10). That “saints” refers to followers of Jesus is made clear in the expanded form in Revelation 14:12: “Here is the perseverance of the saints, they who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
The “inhabitants of the earth” are defined negatively; “everyone whose name is not written in the book of life of the Lamb.” What determines status is whether one renders homage to the Beast or to the Lamb.
Written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The clause is based on Daniel 12:1 – “and at that time your people will be delivered, everyone that will be found written in the book.” This is now expanded into the “book of the life of the Lamb.” It is the death of the Lamb that redeems men so their names can be inscribed in the book (cp. Revelation 3:20; 21:27).
The “book of Life” belongs to the Lamb and he determines whose name is included. Whether this book is identical with the book sealed with seven seals, is not stated. Since the Lamb alone is worthy to open that scroll, this is a possibility. On the other hand, this book is the “Lamb’s book of life,” whereas, the sealed scroll included judgments that resulted in death.
Slain from the foundation of the world.” The clause uses the same Greek verb for “slain” as that used for the “slain” Lamb (5:6-12). The same verb is applied to the souls under the altar “slain for their testimony” (6:9), the deadly wound of the Beast in imitation of the Lamb (13:3), and the “blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” (18:24).
Having been slain from the foundation of the world.” This does not mean the Son has died repeatedly since the creation. The participle is in a perfect tense and signifies an action completed in the past with results continuing into the present. Revelation traces the Dragon’s effort to destroy mankind back to the Garden of Eden, which is why he is identified as the “ancient serpent” (12:9).
Likewise, the Beast is a trans-historical figure that has existed at least since the incident at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). The Beast that John saw “was, is not, and is going to ascend out of the Abyss,” its seven heads represent “seven kings; five are fallen, one is, the other is not yet come; and when he comes he must continue a little while” (17:8-10). Everyone whose name has not been written in the book of life “from the foundation of the world” wonders after the Beast when he sees “how he was, and is not, and will come.”
The Beast mimics the Lamb and God. It has a death and “resurrection,” just as the Lamb did. “He was, and is not, and will come” echoes the earlier description of God, the one “who is, who was and who is coming” (1:44:811:17).
Slain from the foundation of the world” does not mean Jesus suffered death since then, any more than “those whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” means that believers have existed since the creation. Just as God knew those who were His from the beginning, so His redemptive plan has been in process since the creation.
The passage concludes with an exhortation: “If anyone is for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be slain with sword, with sword must he be slain.” Saints do not escape persecution and are destined to endure captivity, persecution and violent death.  The verse alludes to a prophecy from Jeremiah originally against the kingdom of Judah, a prophecy that anticipated Judah’s captivity in Babylon:
(Jeremiah 15:1-2) – “Then said Yahweh to me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. And it shall come to pass, when they say to you, Where shall we go forth? Then you will tell them, Thus says Yahweh, Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for captivity, to captivity.”
Revelation gives it an ironic twist; what was a word of judgment becomes the means by which saints overcome Babylon. They do suffer at her hands (17:6), but her victory over the saints is only apparent. God will remember her sins and “judge your judgment on her…and in an hour she shall desolated,” for in her was found the “blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth” (18:20-24).
The call to “hear” recalls the repeated exhortation in the letters to the seven churches concerning how believers overcome:  “if anyone has an ear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22).
Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” The captivity and death that “saints” experience at the Beast’s hands is the perseverance of the saints. The verse begins with the adverb hōde or “here,” which is emphatic and stresses the point.  What looks like defeat to the “inhabitants of the earth” turns out to be a victory. Saints are called to persevere through whatever the Beast inflicts on them.
A noteworthy point is how the book of Revelation nowhere depicts or mentions an escape from suffering as an option for overcoming saints. Believers are called to endure faithfully and to persevere in witness. This is not only how saints “overcome” but, more importantly, how God uses them to redeem many of the “inhabitants of the earth.”

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