Revelation 13 flows on from the battle fury of Revelation 12 and discusses about two beasts and the ever popular number "666". As we would have deduced by this stage, the book of Revelation is one filled with apocalyptic symbolism and it should not surprise that the number "666" is just a symbol for the beast (or you can argue that "6" is one number short of God's perfect number "7").
The first beast is a sea beast and its description of having ten horns and resembling a leopard, a bear and a lion paints the image of the four beasts described in Daniel 7. We learn from Daniel 7 that these four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth (Daniel 7:17) and the fourth beast shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time (Daniel 7:25). That said, we can be assured that this only lasted until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom (Daniel 7:23). Verse 2 and 4 shows us that it is the dragon i.e. Satan who gave these nations the power and authority. This sea beast, or "the government" as we have now come to deduce, even pretends to have the same power of resurrection as Jesus did when one of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast (Revelation 13:3). The people are caused to think of the government as God as they worshiped the dragon and the beast (Revelation 13:4). And as previously illustrated in Daniel 7, the beast was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (Revelation 13:7) but here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints (Revelation 13:10) as they suffer persecution.
The second beast (the land beast) can be likened to a dragon in lamb's clothing (think of the analogy of the wolf in sheep's clothing). Verse 11 tells us that it had two horns like a lamb (a reference to Jesus in the previous chapters of Revelation i.e. it pretends to be the Saviour) and it spoke like a dragon (who tells lies, being the deceiver). The remaining second half of Revelation 13 goes on to describe this beast as false state religion i.e. not true Christianity. God rules the world in two ways via the State (through the sword) and via the Church (through His Word). It is when the religion comes to possess the sword that we need to be wary. The power of the government uses religion as its puppet. It even performs miraculous deceptions like imitating Elijah by making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people (Revelation 13:13) to make people worship the sea beast (i.e. the government), painting a most idolatrous image. Other parts of the Bible warn us of this as well. Matthew 7:22-23 says: On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'. Mark 13:21-22 warns: And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. False christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. Similarly, Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says: If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
As Christians living in this world, are we willing to be persecuted for His name's sake? Or have we subjected ourselves to be domesticated by the authorities of this world? Revelation 13 is a call for endurance and faith as we suffer persecution. It is a call for wisdom to realize that state religion is human - it is not God but merely workings of man. It is an assurance as we can be comforted by the knowledge that the dragon is overthrown and he knows that he has been beaten. So let us live out our faith in Christ with all endurance and wisdom...
Labels: Australia, Christianity, Revelation