Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Revelation 13:1-5

Revelation 13:1-5
And I looked!  Out of the sea a beast went up while having ten horns and seven heads and upon its horns were ten diadems and upon its heads was a name of blasphemy.  And the beast that I saw was similar to a leopard, its feat as a bear, and its mouth as a mouth of a lion.  The dragon gave to him its power, its throne, and great authority.  And one – out of its heads – was as having been slaughtered into death.  And the affliction of its death was healed.  The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast.  And they bowed down to worship the dragon, because he gave the authority to the beast and they bowed down to worship the beast while saying, “What is similar to the beast and what is powerful enough to make war with him?”  And a mouth was given to him that called out great and blasphemous things and authority was given to him to do for forty-two months.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

As the dragon stands upon the land and the sea, where we left him at the end of chapter 12, we see a beast come up out of the sea.  This beast resembles the dragon.  Do you see the interplay between seven and ten among the heads, horns, and diadems?  Using this logic, I’m going to take a purely historical approach to the beast.  I John’s context of writing, I believe that this beast represents the Roman Empire.  How would Rome have come to Asia Minor and the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, a sea which they called Mare Nostrum (Our Sea)?  The would have come by boat after boat after boat.  This massive military force that brought about great persecution of the Christians would have quite literally come out of the sea.  Furthermore, each of the ten leaders of Rome following Augustus all took on the title divas, which is the Latin word for divine.  In other words, the emperors of Rome claimed to be gods themselves.  If that doesn’t sound like blasphemy, I don’t know what does!  In short, part of what I think John is trying to do is to drive home the point to the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor that this occupying Roman force is not from God but rather coming with the power of Satan.  John wants to remind the people that this dragon, who has full power over the earth, will use that full power to bring about beasts that will persecute us.  Those beasts are often in the form of oppressive governments and oppressive violent military or guerilla forces that impose their will upon us.  We must recognize them for what they are, expect persecution, but hold fast to God!

From where does your persecution come?  What beasts in your life have the power of Satan to bring persecution into your life?

Second Thought:

This beast has the appearance of a bear, leopard, and a lion.  These images are once more drawn from John’s past.  They are the exact images that Daniel uses in Daniel 7:3-7.  What is John saying here?  John is reminding the people of God that there have been other nations in other days that persecuted God’s people.  The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and now the Romans have oppressed the people of God.  As we learned in the last chapter, Satan, and the world over which he has influence, wages war against God’s people because it is its only option.  However, notice that John has woven the beasts from Daniel’s vision into a single beast.  I think that there is a darker point here.  Humanity tends to escalate.  The evil of one generation becomes accepted in the next generation.  That means that the next generation has the freedom to create a new kind of evil and a new kind of sin.  As humanity walks further down the road away from God, the evil within will have more freedom and it will escalate.

Where can you see this trend play out in history?  Where has a mild evil that was tolerated turned into a gross evil that needed to be resisted?  How is this true in your life?  Where have you see small sins escalate into gross rebellion against God?

Third Thought:

The “head that is slaughtered” is one of the coolest overlooked dynamics of the whole book of Revelation.  Look at what happens here.  This beast suffers a great wound, but manages to recover from it.  It gains worship because it was thought to be dead but it overcame death!  Does that sound like a rip-off of any other great story?  Of course!  This beast imitates the death of Jesus!  Look at the parallels.  The beast suffers what looks like death only to be worshipped for the miracle.  Jesus suffered genuine death and is also worshipped because of His victory.  The beast is an imitator – a false imitator – of the Son of God.  The beast is a deceiver, promising all of the power of the true Son of God.  Satan will wage war against God in any way possible: open warfare or subtle false imitation.

Have you ever been tricked by subtle and false imitations of real faith?  Why does the world employ such tactics?

Passage for Tomorrow: Revelation 13:6-10
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