Exegetical look into Revelation 13:1-4

 

  • Dragon stood…shore of the sea coming out of: Meaning a vicious, killing monster and refers to the attempt of Satan to mock God by attempting to create His creation. This is also an image of summoning a powerful demon. Satan brings his representation out of the chaos of the sea counter to God’s creation out of the chaos of nothing. It is interesting to note that Satan cannot create matter or bring something from nothing; he can only recruit, manipulate, and deceivingly use what God has already made, turning it into bad (Gen. 1; Col. 1:15-17; Rev. 11:7, 12:9,17; 13:15).
  • Beast coming out of the sea: This is meant to represent a messianic figure. Sea is a Jewish metaphor for what is frightful and terrible; it was also a colloquialism (saying) for a dwelling for monsters and things inexplicable and/or hostile (Job 7:12; 41:1; Psalms 74:13; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1).
  • Beast was a maxim meaning a persecuting power and/or a people who are demonic and evil. This term does not denote a singular person being an antichrist although the theme as John uses in 1 John does apply as opposing Christ. These two metaphors, beast and sea put together in this literature type refer to the tenacity, fierceness, and repulsiveness of this beast. In John’s time this also represented the Romans or any secular, pagan authority because Rome was birthed near the sea in its Mediterranean location as compared to the inland Asia Minor churches. Also, a symbol of Rome was an eagle with 12 wings and three heads coming out of the sea (Dan. 7:3; Rev. 11:7; apocryphal book 4 Ezra 11).
  • Ten horns … seven heads … ten crowns: Each of these is a metaphoric parallel to the nature of Christ. For example, horns means leadership, power, and authority; head is wisdom and position as well as domination; ten crowns is counter to Christ’s many crowns (Ex. 6:14; Num. 1:16; 27:2; Jos. 6:4; 1 Kings 1:49-51; Rev. 19:12). The beast is acting like the counterfeit of Christ—who is the image of God; the beast is as an image of Satan in his character seeking to trick people into believing that the real God is obtuse, when in fact the devil is. Seven heads was also a saying that Rome is a city built on seven hills (Psalm 2:7; Col. 1:15-18; Heb. 1:3).
  • Blasphemous name: Infers that his name is not worthy, whereas in contrast, Christ is worthy. Roman emperors had a tendency to take the  titles of deities for their title, such as Domitian, who took it to an extreme (perhaps a contemporary of John, if a late date is in view of his penning of Revelation), was addressed as Dominus et Deus noster meaning “Our Lord and God” (John 1:14; Phil 2:9-11; Col. 2:9; Rev. 19:12).
  • Leopard…bearlion: John is drawing images and characteristics from Daniel’s four beasts. Leopard also meant “being swift” and “military conquest;” bear meant “ferocious strength” and “stability;” and a lion meant “power” and “dominion” (Dan. 7:2-7; Rev. 12:3; 17:8-11).
  • Dragon gave the beast his power: Satan empowers the beast whereas in contrast God empowers and is Christ, who empowers us (John 5:21-23; Rev. 3:21; 5:12-13; 12:10).
  • Fatal wound…been healed: A counterfeit theme to the Resurrection of Christ that is the proof and means for evangelism, but Satan can’t duplicate it so some how it is imitated or faked. Some see this as the recovery power of the beast. This is also of the theme of Nero.
  • Was astonished: Somehow, this is the means that the beast uses (trickery) so people become amazed with and are attracted to be followers, going away from God and goodness (Rev. 17:8).
  • Men worshiped: This is also a counterfeit to true worship whereas, in contrast, people worshiped what is wrong and evil. People are attracted to the conniving and scheming of evil rather than to the centrality of Christ (John 5:23).
  • Who is like the beast: A counterfeit of praise, taking praise that is meant for God, twisting and perverting it (Ex. 15:11; apocryphal book Judith 6).
  • Who can make war against him? This may be an expression of the tenacity, persistence, recovery, and resilience of evil, as we say now, “you can’t fight city hall.”

Revelation 13:1-4: What are the Contexts?

During this time in history, Nero died (in 68 A.D.) by either suicide or murder, and a rumor was instituted that he would come back in vengeance on the aristocracy to destroy them and all those who doubted or came against him. Many Romans were in fear of his expected return. Then, during Domitian’s reign (81-96 AD), a cult leader, claiming he was Nero, rose in power in Asia Minor where these seven churches were, so this imagery was already in people’s minds through literature and circumstances. This person also made an allegiance with the Parthians, making himself the perfect antichrist figure. He was hunted down and executed. The Jews wrote oracles predicting that Nero would return to terrorize the Christians and prevent Jewish conversions just as some Christian groups used Hitler, Russia, and other groups to make their point and create fear. The early Christians greatly feared Nero, who had thousands of Christians put to death, and the prospect that he might come back was terrifying (called the Nero redivivus myth, Latin for “renewed or “living again”). 

In fact, Nero’s name was used as a term for the antichrist, which we will see later in this chapter. This image was so terrifying that for hundreds of years, most all of the great early scholars, including Augustine, Jerome, and many modern scholars too like Barclay and F.F. Bruce, believed that Nero was to whom John was referring and was the antichrist. Perhaps, John is borrowing from the news of his day or popular myths and this form of apocalyptic literature to make his point and show us how Satan works so we do not buy into his game. By the way, antichrist means anyone who opposes Christ, as a term it is found in First and Second John but nowhere else including in Revelation, although it can be argued that the theme of antichrist is found here. This is why we are to look at what the symbolisms refer to or are pointing to and not the meaning in English or what symbols themselves may mean in our day, else we get caught in vain speculation and miss the point that Christ has for us. 

Even though this passage is about the contrasts of Satan, many commentators have seen this figure of the beast as the person of the antichrist. However, there are some severe interpretive problems with this view. For one, the passage does not say it is the antichrist; nowhere in Revelation is there an antichrist personality other than representations of those who oppose Christ and fight His people. This points us to an antichrist in purpose but not a specific personality. (The Greek word for antichrist means “opponent to the Messiah;” in Scripture, it means anyone who opposes Christ, not necessarily a specific person – 1 John 2:18-22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7. In 2 Thess 2:3, “man of lawlessness” refers to rebellion, but again, not to a specific person. What some commentators have done is take several passages out of their context and string them together to create their position). In this way, anyone who opposes Christ is an antichrist as it is defined elsewhere in Scripture and by John. Thus, many read into the passage their views rather than seeing what this actually says in the original language and what would be understood by John’s readers in this type of literature and images.

Revelation 13:1-4

Introduction 

The First Beast 

This passage is about the contrasts of Satan versus the distinctions of Christ. Satan seeks to counterfeit and mock God. This is about the forgery of making what is evil and hideous seem attractive. The beast demands our worship and declares war upon the faithful! This passage is cut from its verse references to its context, as it really starts at the close of chapter 12, where Jesus asks us to trust Him as the dragon stands on the shore of the sea. John now sees another vision—a beast rising out of the depths of the sea. This beast had seven heads, ten horns, and ten crowns on each of its horns. There were blasphemous names written on it. This beast looked like a leopard with the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion. This beast gets its power from the Dragon. One of the heads was wounded but then was healed. The world marvels and worships this beast, deceived by its power and presence. 

John draws from Daniel’s four beasts (Dan. 7: 3-7) which represented four succeeding empires. Most scholars assume they are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon/ Persia and Alexandrian Greek/Roman, while others give them other orders, meanings and speculations. These refer to idolatrous kingdoms that persecute the faithful. In John’s time, they were in the age of Rome, the fourth period. Thus, it is a composite of domineering evil that also means worldly oppression, so that John’s readers could know what was evil and what was not of the character of God. We see this as an invading force whose wickedness and debauchery is unprecedented as the world is duped into worshiping Satan and or his evil ways; however, ignorance is no excuse. 

  1. How would you contrast the character of Satan versus the distinctions of Christ? How and why does Satan seek to counterfeit and mock God? How have you seen this done?
  1. Why did the people worship this beast while at the same time, be callous and uncaring of the real, Holy God? How do we do this in the church today?

What does Revelation 11:7-14 mean to us now?

 

The two witnesses model to us what is important in our Christian life—and that is faithfulness. We must exhibit a willingness to withstand and endure persecution and to face our fears while looking to our Lord. If not, we will look to our fears and turn our face from our Lord; that will only bring us haplessness and distress. And, the payback is God is faithful; He gets us through and vindicates us. The witnesses are examples of courage and faithfulness, and that no matter what circumstances we face, Christ is here and our trust is to be in Him. They are protected for a time, and then they are slain; we can see this as a great loss, and that Satan wins, but his victory is a temporary illusion; eventually, it becomes a total defeat. In God’s eyes, this is a victory, for their job was a success. They and we are made for eternity, not for this world (Acts 12:1-10).  

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. What should a Christian do when experiencing extreme exasperation? How does it make a difference to you that God is still in control in times of insurmountable chaos and suffering?
  1. Do you believe that if you do not know the Old Testament you will not know much or get much from the New Testament, especially Revelation? What happens to our theology when we leave the interpretation up to readers who may not know the Bible as well as they think?
  1. Why would people seek what is terrifying, repulsive, and evil to lead the world? Why would Christians seek such an event or person to lead the Church astray? How would they rationalize it?
  1. Why must our allegiance be a pure loyalty to Christ and His Kingdom, and come first in our lives?
  1. What happens when we are in Christ, yet we seek other things to replace Him that we think are greater such as our race, nationality, or political agendas? How do you balance political pursuits with Christ-like character?
  1. How have you shown faithfulness of character by standing in Christ with an authentic, consistent testimony?
  1. How can you see that God is still in control even over the beast, and in times of insurmountable chaos and suffering? What would this mean to your faith?

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org

The Four Main Views of Revelation 11:7-14

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as the introduction of the beast, the enemy of God and man, and how he ascends (Psalm 87:4; 89:10; Is. 51:9; Dan. 7:3-8, 16-25). They place the emphasis on the testimony of the two witnesses (who represent the Old Testament Prophets), which was finished before they were martyred. Their opposition was from the discords of the Roman war against Jerusalem, and the eventual downfall of Jerusalem from God because of civil and religious rebellion that the two witnesses spoke against. The rejoicing of the pagans is reminiscent of how they treated Christ; now, it is the anarchist’s celebration for civil dissension (Matt. 27:27-31, 39-44; Luke 22:63-65; 23:8-12, 35-39). Some in this camp see the two witnesses’ resurrection as a look back to Christ and His resurrection; others see it as an event that already took place and is lost to history or an allegory of the battle of good versus evil. The earthquake is seen as the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. 

The Futurist view: There are varying views in this camp as to whether the beast in this passage is the same as in chapters 13 and 17. But, it is agreed that the beast is the enemy of the Church and/or false teachers and leaders of the Church. The point is that the beast is powerless to withstand Christ and His people. The wicked people seem to capitalize on their fiendish victory over the two witnesses, but are quickly turned to shame. The resurrection of the two witnesses is about the awe and horror seen by its viewers on T.V. Then, God causes a great earthquake that destroys Jerusalem. The glory of the Lord is seen as fear—not authentic repentance—but it may bring about real converts. 

The Idealist view: They see the beast as representative of antichristian endeavors throughout the world and time, who seek to silence the godly. The completion of the testimony means God allows suffering but also sustains us through it (Matt. 16:18). The great city is representative of rebellion against God and that the triumph of the wicked will be brief. The resurrection of the two witnesses is seen as the honor they are given in heaven and the consternation of the evil people who did evil to them. Resurrection is also seen as the triumphant church as they see in 1 Thess. 4:16-18. 

The Historicist view: They see the completion of the testimony not applicable to a specific age, but about the truth of the Gospel that prevails. The denial of burial is seen as papal decrees and the Lateran Councils (1179-1215) that would not let faithful people who opposed the mismanagement of the Church to be buried. This is how Wycliffe’s and Huss ‘bodies were desecrated. The beast and the great city are seen as Rome and its evil rule. Stood on their feet refers to the Reformation. The resurrection is seen as the triumph of the Reformation. The earthquake is seen as the political upheavals that happened after the Reformation.

Exegetical look into Revelation 11:11-14

 

  • Three and a half days refers to the bodies that were decaying and/or the time of their prophesying; it denotes a short time (see last study). Some see this as the last half of the great tribulation, may be possible, however this is not shown in the text or context either.
  • People, tribe, language refers to the people, their political power, and their allegiance to either God or to evil. A warning is given that allegiance must be pure loyalty to Christ and His Kingdom, and must come first in our lives. When we are in Christ, we are part of His greater Kingdom—more than just our race or nationality (Psalm 33:10; Phil 3:20; Rev. 5:9; 8:13; 13:3-14; 17:2-8).
  • Sending each other gifts refers to pagan celebrations; it probably does not refer to The Feast of Purim, the Jews’ celebration of their deliverance from the Persians (Esth. 9:19-22).
  • Those who live/dwell on the earth indicates that there are two types of people—those who belong to God and those who oppose Him. Thus, all of humanity either belongs to God or are rebellious, rejecting His Truth and hostile to Him, choosing to remain in their sin (Rev. 6:10).
  • Breath of life from God entered them. This refers to a spectacular validation of authentic faith. The context emphasizes that these are the good churches that stay faithful, and what can happen for us when we, too, stay faithful. However, there are many theories. If these are literal people—which is possible—they are physically resurrected as Christ was. If they represent the Church, it means vindication and victory (Gen. 2:7; Ezek. 37:5, 10; John 20:22; Rev. 6:9-10; 20:1-6).
  • Went up to heaven in a cloud is referring to how Elijah ascended (2 Kings 2:11; Acts 1:9-11), not necessarily about the “rapture” (1 Thess. 4:15-17).
  • Seven thousand people were killed is sometimes referring to a tenth of the population, or a remnant (1 Kings 19:18).
  • Earthquake. This theme is associated with end times and divine visitations (Ex. 19:18; Is. 2:19; Hag. 2:6; Zech. 14:4-5; Ezek. 38:19-20; Amos 8:8; Rev. 6:12).
  • Gave glory to the God of heaven. This probably not an act of genuine repentance, but they were terrified to realize that Christ is the real Lord rather than the evil people or political shenanigans they had put their trust in.
  • Second woe. This refers to look out, terror is coming, or a stern warning of more trouble to come (Amos. 5:18-6:1; Rev. 6:10; 8:13; 10:1-11:14; Rev. 9:12).

Exegetical look into Revelation 11:7-10

 

  • The beast in the Original Greek refers to a “bestial” man, one who is brutal, savage, and ferocious. In context, this in its context infers that the sea is a dwelling place for monsters, suggesting terrifying, repulsive, and evil things that seek to lead the world and the Church astray. This passage also depicts how God is still in control even over the beast, and in times of insurmountable chaos and suffering (Job 7:12; 41:1; Psalm 74:13; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1). Here, “the beast” makes his first appearance; this may not be the same person all of the time such as the antichrist, rather a metaphor or a theme of intent rather than a specific personality (The reason why we do not always take these images literally is for the reason that this is “apocalyptic literature” written in symbolism, poetry and imageries conveying ideas and representations. Whereas most of Scripture is narrative and epistles (letters) that we do take as literal). At this place, the beast it denotes someone of power and influence who is doing the persecution, and more on the beast when we get to chapter 13 (Psalm 87:4; 89:10; Is. 51:9; Dan. 7:3-8, 16-25). Some say this indicates that the antichrist will take over the Temple and John is seeking to prevent or at least slow it down; however, this is not shown in the text or context (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
  • Abyss means “very deep” (the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament word for bottomless). Jewish tradition saw this as a literal, subterranean place, used for the imprisonment of evil demons and Satan, which was actually on the earth (for more detail see Rev. 9:1-11 study). John is using this image to show the beasts “demonic character” (Gen. 1:2; 7:11; Prov. 8:28; Luke 8:31; Rev. 9:1; 20:1).
  • Their bodies. The denial of burial was considered one of the most grievous insults and a great cruelty and sin in ancient cultures (Deut. 21:22-23; Isa. 5:25; Acts 14:19).
  • Great city likely refers to Jerusalem, but the context suggests it is symbolic of any city that is in rebellion and opposition to God. Thus, many commentators have suggested it refers to Rome or Babylon. It is more than a specific, worldly Jerusalem, but any city or people group that fights against God deteriorates into apostasy—such as Sodom—and thus becomes primed for judgment (Is 1:10; Gal. 4:25-26; Rev. 11:1; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18-19, 21).
  • Figuratively refers to the contrast between Jewish and Roman authorities, both of whom are performing evil. Revelation often gives clues to those who are not 1st century Jew’s who may not understand the metaphors of this type of literature  that is based on Old Testament imagery and 1st century life and  customs. We can understand just as well when we seek to understand the Old Testament and get a better handle on the original language and culture.
  • Sodom refers to a city that had little to no morality and/or compromised greatly, such as first century Jerusalem that betrayed its covenant with God (Is. 1:9-10, 21; Jer. 23:14).
  • Egypt represents accentuated oppression and slavery; as Egypt oppressed Israel, so Jerusalem oppresses the righteous Jews and Christians (Rev. 2:9; 3:9).
  • Where also their Lord was crucified is perhaps an Early Church metaphor to contrast pagan with righteous. It could be a metaphor for Rome that had the authority to crucify, but also had authority to stop it.