12 January 2019

Beast from the Earth (Revelation 13:11-15)

Temple of Diana, Ephesus
Temple of Diana, Ephesus
Earlier John “heard a great voice in heaven” proclaim victory because of the blood of the Lamb (12:10-11); salvation and the reign of the Messiah arrived, and the Dragon was cast out of heaven. The voice called on the “heavens and they who tabernacle in them” to rejoice. But the Dragon was not finished, for the voice also declared “woe to the earth and the sea, for the Devil is come down to you having great wrath” (12:9-12).
     In chapter 13 we now read a description what John saw. What he sees interprets what he earlier heard. The voice’s warning to “the sea” is explained when John sees a beast ascend from it. John now sees a “beast ascending from the earth,” thus the warning by the voice to earth and sea (12:9-12; 13:11-18).
     Unlike the first beast, this one speaks, though with the voice of Satan (“he spoke as a dragon”). He speaks with all the authority of the first beast; his authority is not his own. He is the mouthpiece given to the beast from the sea that calls men to give allegiance to it (“there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies… and there was given it authority to continue forty and two months.”). This mouth opens to speak “blasphemies against God and his tabernacle, them that dwell in the heaven,” and thus “makes war with the saints.”
     This description corresponds to the “little horn speaking great things” in Daniel’s visions of the four beasts from the sea and of the Ram and the Goat:
(Daniel 7:8) – “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 7:20-21; Daniel 8:9; Daniel 8:23).
     The description of the “Beast from the earth” uses language from two passages in Daniel, the first from the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol, the second from an exhortation at the conclusion of Daniel. The latter will become clearer in the subsequent article on the mark of the beast.

(Daniel 3:1-7) – “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty and its breadth six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather the satraps, the deputies, and the governors, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set-up. Then the herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and tongues, that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, that you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set-up; and whosoever does not fall down and render homage will the same hour be cast into the burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the cornet…all the peoples, nations, and tongues fell down and rendered homage to the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set-up(Daniel 12:9-10).
     The Aramaic verb rendered “set-up” is repeated seven times in Daniel 3:1-7 to stress the part of Nebuchadnezzar in this idolatrous affair. He was responsible for setting up the great golden image and coercing the population to bow to it. Revelation compares the beast from the earth to a lamb with two horns; the picture is symbolical, not literal. The background from Daniel paints a picture in which Nebuchadnezzar’s role corresponds to that of the beast from the earth. He sets up the image, compels all society to worship it and metes out horrific death to anyone who refuses to do so.
(Daniel 3:13-15) – “Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said unto them, Is it of purpose, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that ye serve not my god, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made, well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Beast from the Earth (13:11-15)
(Revelation 13:11-15) – “And I saw another beast ascending out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he makes all the authority of the first beast in his sight. And he makes the earth and them that inhabit it to render homage to the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed. And he makes great signs that he should even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to make in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who has the stroke of the sword and lived. And it was given to him to give breath to it, even to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and makethat as many as should not render homage to the image of the beast should be killed.
This next paragraph parallels the preceding one (13:1-10). Another Beast ascends but this time out of the earth. It is identified elsewhere as the “False Prophet” (16:13; 19:20; 20:10).
     Though possibly coincidental, in parallel with the story of Nebuchadnezzar and his image the Beast from the earth is said seven times to “make” (poieō) the “inhabitants of the earth” erect an image of the Beast  (13:11-18), just as Daniel stated seven times that Nebuchadnezzar “set up” his golden image.
     The Beast from the earth has “two horns like a lamb” but speaks with the voice of a dragon. This identifies him with the Dragon; he is the satanic counterpart to Jesus, the true Lamb. Unlike this Beast, Jesus has seven horns (5:6), a full set, and speaks with a “great voice like a trumpet” (1:10).
     The two horns correspond to the Two Witnesses from Revelation 11:3-12. The Beast from the earth, the False Prophet, is the satanic counterpart to the Two Witnesses. They conduct their prophetic witness for “twelve hundred and sixty days.” This period parallels the remaining time in which the Dragon is able to wreak havoc on the earth, the “little while,” and the forty-two months allotted to the mouthpiece of the beast.
     The Two Witnesses are empowered to call fire from heaven to destroy their enemies. Likewise, the False Prophet calls “fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth” to deceive (planaō) the inhabitants of the earth. The Two Witnesses “stand in the sight of (enopion) the Lord of the earth; likewise, the Beast from the earth “exercises all the authority of the first beast in the sight (enopion) of it.” Each serves their respective master (Revelation 11:4-6).
     The Two Witnesses inflict punishments on their opponents, much like the plagues inflicted by Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:9-12). They have authority “over the waters to turn them into blood and to smite the earth with every plague” (Revelation 11:6). Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and turned it into a serpent. Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to imitate this “sign”; “they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents.” So also the False Prophet, the Beast from the earth, performs “signs” like those of the Two Witnesses.
     “as many as should not render homage to the image of the beast should be killed.” This statement echoes Daniel 3:6 where all who refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image were “cast into the burning fiery furnace.” The same verse is used for the literary source of the Lake of Fire, though in a paradoxical way. Just as the men who threw the three Jewish exiles into Babylon’s fiery furnace were burned by its super-heated flames, so the Beast and False Prophet that attempt to destroy the saints will be “cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (19:20).
     Again, the picture is symbolical. It does not necessarily follow that because this beast is called the “False Prophet,” or because he causes people to render homage to an idol, that he is a religious deceiver, or at least not exclusively so. Later the “False Prophet,” the Dragon and the Beast from the sea exercise demonic power and miracles to “gather all the kings of the earth to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:13-14).
    The “False Prophet” works to cause the “inhabitants of the earth, every tribe and people and tongue and nation,” to give allegiance to the Beast and to its image. If the first beast represents political power, then portrayed here is state idolatry; giving total allegiance to the state. The political aspect should not be downplayed.

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