Session 14

Revelation Study – Session 14

Dr. Larry Reynolds

 

 

Overview of the seven signs in 12:1 – 15:4...these signs continue the theme which has dominated Revelation, the theme of conflict between good/evil...God/Satan...God’s people/enemies of God’s people...and they serve the purpose of moving us toward the final resolution of this great conflict which is the climax of Revelation...in this section reminded that while God’s people have formidable enemy in Satan and his allies, have much greater ally in the Redeeming Lamb of God...quickly overview the seven signs an then look at 3rd and 4th signs in chapter 13 tonight...

 

1.      A woman and her son (12:1-2, 56) – Saw woman represents the true people of God or the spiritual/true Israel through whom the Messiah, God incarnate, came to our world...the son represents Jesus...

 

2.      A great red dragon (12:3-4) – Represents Satan...v.9 interprets this sign for us....the chapter overviews the great battle between the Lamb of God and His people and Satan...

·         Attacked Christ during earthly ministry (vv.1-6)

·         Stormed gates of heaven after resurrection in vain attempt to destroy Christ there (vv. 7-12)

·         Attacked God’s people—the church ( vv.13-17)

 

3.      A beast from the sea (13:1-10)

 

4.      A beast from the earth (13:11-18)

 

5.      The Lamb with 144,000 people with His name on their foreheads (14:1-5)

 

6.      A vision of angels (14:6-20)

7.      Seven angels with seven plagues (15:1-4) – Transition to the next series of seven, the 7 bowls of wrath

 

In this session we are going to look at chapter 13 which describes two beasts who are allies of the great dragon introduced in chapter 12...beast from sea (13:1-10) and beast from earth (13:11-17)... this is probably most debated chapter in Revelation...has in it some of the most dramatized (or, in my opinion absurdly over-dramatized) symbols in the book – the mark of the beast and the number of the beast which is 666...want to follow same pattern in looking at each of these two signs...first explore what the sign means and then explore some applications to our lives today...

 

God’s people are in a great spiritual war with Satan and this chapter reveals to John’s readers and to us some of the allies that Satan uses in this war...

 

The third sign – A beast from the sea (13:1-10)

           

In interest of time want to overview the two predominant ways to identifying this beast from the sea...one is held by those who approach Revelation from the futurist point of view and the other held by those who approach Revelation from a historical background perspective...

1.      Futurist perspective - Generally identify the beast from the sea with a figure called “the antichrist”...use that term because appears as a rival deity to Christ...futurist expect an extremely wicked world ruler to come to power just before the return of Christ...(third return at end of tribulation period)...term antichrist not used at all in Revelation...is used by John in I John 2....only John uses word “antichrist” in Scripture...in I John 2 seems indicate will be a personal embodiment of evil (“that antichrist”) at some point in time, but also indicates many antichrists are already in world...in II Thess.2 Paul refers to a “man of lawlessness” which futurist tend to identify with the antichrist and the beast from the sea...

 

Some futurist, notably Hal Lindsey of The Late Great Planet Earth fame does not view this first beast as the antichrist...he sees this beast as a political system which makes the antichrist’s rise to power possible...will rule world during 7 year tribulation period...he identified the ten horns as ten nations making up the European Common Market...share that just to highlight some of the rather imaginative ways that some people approach passage like these in Revelation...

 

2.      Historical Background perspective –Views the beast as representing the Roman Empire specifically represented by, Domitian, the current emperor of Rome...

·         Description

o   “beast” – Means wild, ferocious jungle creature...in Jewish apocalyptic literature such a beast often symbolized a ruler or his government...

o   “out of the sea” – Rome’s power came out of Italy and to Asia Minor by way of the sea...

o   “ten horns and seven heads” – Some say horns refer to power and heads to wisdom...some look for more detail in this symbol...

§  point out that when John was writing there had been a total of 8 Roman emperors—Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian...contend the 7 heads represent these emperors... how since numbers don’t match?...well known legend in 1st century about Nero...died would come back to life...while obviously wouldn’t believe such a thing, some say John using that legend to identify Rome as this beast...many in 1st century believed Domitian was Nero incarnate...so while would have been 8 bodies, only 7 emperors...

§  Also point out that following death of Nero was period of chaos when three different men held imperial power for brief periods of time—Galba, Otho, and Vitellius...weren’t considered genuine emperors but were part of Rome’s rulers, at least for very brief periods...say the 10 horns represent the 7 (8) emperors and 3 temporary emperors...

o   “ten diadems” – represent political rule...

o   “blasphemous names” - refers to emperor’s claims to deity...all the emperors were said to be divine and some, like Caligula, took that claim quite seriously...ordered his statue to be placed in the Jewish Temple...Domitian required his subjects to kiss his feet and pledge “Caesar is Lord and God”…Nero on his coins called himself “The Savior of the World”

o   “...leopard...bear...lion...” – Imagery drawn from Daniel 7...speaks of seemingly unstoppable power of Rome...one writer put it this way:  “The empire has the catlike vigilance, the craft and the cruelty of the leopard, ever ready to spring on its pray.  The empire has the crushing power of the bear, which with its destroying hug can squeeze the life out of its victim.  The empire is like the lion whose roar terrifies the flock and speaks death and destruction.  The symbolism suits Rome in its attack upon the Christian church.”

o   “...one of the heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed...” – Think refers to the legend that Nero who reportedly killed himself would be revived...

·         Similarities to Domitian

o   Verse 6 – Domitian demanded that he be addressed as god...would not even receive correspondence not addressed to “Supreme Lord and God”...obviously blasphemy...

o   Verse 7 – Romans believed that Roman world was the inhabited earth...named their sea “The middle of the earth” or Mediterranean... thus Domitian, at least in their eyes, ruled the whole earth...

o   Verse 8 – Domitian was worshipped by everyone except for Christians...

o   Verse 14 – Images were set up to make worship of Domitian more convenient...

o   Verse 17 – Those who refused to worship Domitian were refused the privilege of buying or selling in the market places...

         While the subject is certainly open to debate, it is my belief that the beast in 13:1-10 represents Domitian and the evil empire he led...

·         Application

1.      Satan always looking for instruments to use in world—Much good about Rome…brought order out world in chaos...Roman peace allowed people to live without fear of external invasion...Roman roads tied world together and promoted economic growth, which benefited many people...but Satan moved in to take something that had tremendous potential for good and turned it into something evil...as way of doing that today…every person and every nation must constantly choose between being used as instrument of God or instrument of Satan…no way to remain neutral…must choose one or the other…

2.   God’s ways differ radically from the world’s ways -   Verse 10 very interesting…warning to Rome…they would eventually die by very power they abused…but warning to Christians as well...our way must never be world’s way…not win by force or even by ballot box…win by perseverance and faith…

 

The fourth sign – A beast from the earth (13:11-18)

 

Those who take the futurists perspective identify this beast as an associate of the antichrist (perhaps a religious figure) or, in some cases, the antichrist, himself.  Those of the historical background perspective view this beast as the official body, known as the Concilia, set-up in Asia Minor to enforce emperor worship.  Herschel Hobbs, who takes this view, says first beast represents imperial Rome while second beast, an extension of the first, represents provincial Rome.  Explore three questions:

 

 

 

What is the purpose/function of this second beast?

·         V.12 is key to this question…”he exercises all the authority of the first beast…and he makes the earth and those dwell in it to worship the first beast...”   To spread  emperor worship throughout empire, Rome set up elaborate organization to enforce the worship of Caesar…every province was organized with officials whose duty it was to certify that citizens had duly paid tribute to Caesar…

·         These committees often used trickery into making superstitious people                    think the false god’s and statues were real…

o   the “great signs” of v. 13 probably refers to magicians tricks

o   ”making fire come down from heaven” perhaps was trick to imitate Elijah’s miracle in II Kings 1:10…

o   some have suggested that v.15 may refer to ventriloquism which was used to give images an appearance of life…

It was function of second beast to get people to pay homage to the first beast by whatever means possible…

 

What is the mark of the beast?  (vv.16-17)

·         Probably John took imagery from a prominent Jewish custom which is still prevalent among orthodox Jews to this day...when Jews prayed wore phylacteries, little leather boxes with scripture verses rolled up inside, on left hand and forehead…was sign that person devout Jew...mark of the beast sign the person was committed to emperor…

·         Word used for mark is “charagma”…several usages…

o   Sometimes slaves were branded with such a mark to denote ownership…

o   Sometimes soldiers marked themselves with the name of general under whom they served if especially devoted to him…

o   On every contract there attached there was mark giving name of emperor and date of contract…

o   All coins had mark of emperor in form of cameo of head and inscription stamped on them…

·         Probably refers to custom of giving people certificates showing had done mandatory emperor worship for the year…when had made their act of worship requested annual certificate giving evidence had done so… the request read:  “to those who have been appointed to preside over the sacrifices…we have sacrificed and offered libations, and tasted the sacred things...and we ask you to give us a certification that we have done so.”…response was:  “We, the representatives of the emperor…have seen you sacrificing.”

·         Possessing such a certificate saved a person from death and gave person right to trade and to buy and sell...mark of beast probably refers to certificate which Christian could obtain only by denying his faith and proclaiming that “Caesar is lord.”

 

What   does    666   signify (Most intriguing of all the questions)

·         Some suggest key to understanding 666 is in looking at the symbolism of the numbers themselves and not trying to find in the numbers any reference to particular person…several ideas suggested…

o   Number 6 falls one short of the perfect number 7…in Oriental mind 6 awakened sense of dread…it represented evil…3 (the number of deity) 6’s could be seen as evil raised to the position of deity or emperor worship…

o   Some have noted that a few early Christian writings used the symbol 888 for Christ indicating He goes beyond the perfect number 777…on other hand, beast falls as short of the perfect number 777 as Christ is above it…idea may by the evil emperor who claimed deity and the evil system which supported him can come nowhere near the level of Christ, no matter what claims he makes for himself…

·         Others suggest 666 refers to a specific person and the key to understanding the meaning of the number is determining to whom the number is referring…v.18 seems to support this assertion…”…the number is that of a man…”…wasn’t unusual in first century...neither Romans or Greeks or Hebrews had figures for numbers…the letters in their alphabets also had accepted numeric value…wasn’t uncommon practice to attempt to disguise someone’s name by using numeric equivalent…on walls of Pompeii was found the inscription, “I love her whose number is 545.” ...that statement both identified and concealed his loved one!…

o   As you might imagine there have been some fantastic speculations concerning this number…using various mathematical calculations the 666 has been seen as referring to…POPE…JOHN KNOX MARTIN LUTHER…NAPOLEAN…HITLER…HENRY KISSINGER…

o   I believe throughout chapter clues are given about identity of name behind number…several references made to head that was wounded and then restored…v.3…v.12…v.14…mentioned well known and widely believed legend in first century that the evil/insane emperor Nero would be revived or reincarnated…many thought Domitian, because he had many same characteristics as Nero and persecuted Christians as fiercely as Nero, was actually Nero revived…

o   The numeric value of the Latin letters of NERON, the proper way of saying name, equal 666…if N is dropped number equals of 616 and many ancient mss have that number instead of 666…also, the Hebrew number equivalent of NERO CAESAR is 666…

o   Not a stretch to see this number standing for Nero which was veiled way of referring to Domitian, the emperor of Rome at time John wrote this book…

 

Two points of application  -  Whether you agree with my interpretation of symbols in this chapter irrelevant…key thing is, “What does this chapter say about life in world today?”,,,two things want to mention…

·         Temptation generally comes to us in very subtle forms…

o   Beast from land said to have “…two horns like a lamb…”...came in seeming innocence, but was very destructive and dangerous…“…spoke as a dragon…”

o   Could have easily said, “Look at all Rome has done for you…look at peace and prosperity you enjoy…have you ever known a greater benefactor than the emperor?  Surely in simple gratitude you can give him this formal act or worship.  What would it hurt?”

o    That’s the way temptation always is…so subtle...so seemingly innocent...doesn’t seem bad or dangerous at all...

·         How serpent approached Eve in garden…”You won’t die…fruit is good and lovely and if you eat it you will become wise…”

·         How Satan approached Jesus as well…none of things Satan asked Jesus do in wilderness temptations seems all that bad in light of proposed pay-off…bread for hunger…jump for recognition…worship for kingdoms…but succumbing to any would have been disastrous for His ministry…

·         Must constantly be on guard against the subtle nature of the temptations Satan sends our way…

·         God calls us to radical commitment to way of Christ…

o   Cost the readers of Revelation something to be true to Christ…cost them the ability to buy/sell…be involved in market place…cost some their businesses or means of livelihood…often cost more than that…cost their lives if refused to say “Caesar is Lord”

Chapter 13 really should not be read alone...it needs to be read in conjunction with chapter 14…in 13 the terrible allies of Satan are introduced…John’s readers were in great struggle with these evil forces…knew too well about the abusive power of Rome….in one sense it seemed Christians were totally defenseless in the face of such powerful opposition…but chapter 13 doesn’t tell the whole story…as Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story” is told in chapter 14…even though doesn’t seem so from human point of view, the forces of God are always more powerful than forces of Satan…

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