The Woman and the Dragon (cont’d), 1b
Rev 13:1a And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea.
The Beast out of the Sea, 13:1b-10
Rev 13:1b And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
To John’s original readers, the beast was the Roman Empire, with its seemingly endless succession of monstrous emperors – Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Domitian. The beast was many-headed, rather like a Hydra: cut off one head, and another grows in its place.
Seven heads…on each head a blasphemous name – Seven major figures since Augustus had by the objects of emperor-worship. Nero was titled Saviour of the World, and Domitian was called Dominus et Deus noster – ‘Our lord and god’.
The ten horns…with ten crowns are suggestive of absolute power and authority.
Since the days of the Roman empire, other leaders have emerged who have made similar claims and who have thrived on naked power and opposed God and threatened his people.
Rev 13:2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.
Rev 13:3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.
Rev 13:4 Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”
Rev 13:5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.
Forty-two months – The time of Elijah, again, time of conflict and suffering, but also of signs and wonders.
Rev 13:6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.
Rev 13:7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
We should be wary of attempts to identify the beast with any one person or institution. However, we may view him as one with the antichrist, 1 Jn 2:18,22;4:3; 2 Jn 7; the man of lawlessness, 2 Thess 2:3.
Rev 13:8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
The book of life
G.W. Hawthorne notes that ‘expressions such as “your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:20), “whose names are in the book of life” (Phil. 4:3), “whose name has not been written … in the book of life” (Rev. 13:8), and “I will not blot his name out of the book of life” (Rev. 3:5), crop up several times within the NT. The figure is taken from the OT (cf. Isa. 4:3; Ezk. 13:9; Dan. 12:1), or from the secular world where a criminal’s name was removed from the civic register to take from him all rights of citizenship.’
Hawthorne appears to offer tentative support for a doctrine of conditional immortality when he adds: ‘If one could argue from these statements that all names have been recorded in the book of life, thereby assuring existence for each person, and if one might also argue that for some reason, e.g., wilful disobedience to God’s commands, deliberate refusal to accept Christ as Savior and Lord, etc., one’s name could be removed from this divine register, “blotted out,” then one might argue that that person would cease to exist, for his name would no longer exist.’
ISBE (2nd ed.), art ‘name’
- Wrath of the Lamb, Rev 6:16
- Blood of the Lamb, Rev 7:14
- Book of life of the Lamb, Rev 13:8
- Song of the Lamb, Rev 15:3
- Marriage of the Lamb, Rev 19:7
- Supper of the Lamb, Rev 19:9
- Throne of the Lamb, Rev 22:1
(Pickering, Subjects for Speakers and Students)
The expression from the foundation of the world could be read either with written, or slain. The former is preferable, since it not only makes better sense theologically, but is in line with 17:8, which repeats what is written here.
Rev 13:9 He who has an ear, let him hear.
Rev 13:10 If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
The Beast out of the Earth, 11-18
Rev 13:11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.
Another beast – If the first beast is the secular manifestation of Satan, this second beast would appear to be his religious embodiment. It masquerades as the Lamb, but speaks like a dragon. It speaks on behalf of the first beast and may be regarded as its ‘public relations officer’. It is later described as the false prophet, 16:13.
Bewes comments that false religion may made its mark by causing us to (a) ease up (take it easy, no need to make martyrs of yourselves, a little emperor worship won’t do any harm); (b) freeze up (taking refuge in, say barren intellectualism); (c) seize up (fanaticism that leads to sectarianism and extremism).
Rev 13:12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.
Rev 13:13 And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.
Rev 13:14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.
Rev 13:15 He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
Rev 13:16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,
‘When people’s actions (the right hand) and thinking (the forehead) are controlled by a philosophy alien to Christ…you could say the beast has stamped himself upon their lives.’ (Bewes)
Rev 13:17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Rev 13:18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.
The number of the beast – It is possible that this verse refers to Nero. Numbers were written using letters of the alphabet in the 1st century, and in Hebrew the letters making up ‘Nero Caesar’ add up to 666. However, this requires a variant spelling, and in any case it is difficult to see why the Hebrew should be recalled when the book itself was written in Greek. Cf. Rev 17:9.11. More simply, then, six, being one short of seven, represents a falling short, a missing the mark, a failure. 666, then, stands for failure upon failure upon failure.