Two beasts are introduced. The description of the first beast has numerous parallels to the beasts in Daniel 7:3-8. The composite is even scarier than the initial vision, and brings all the evil empires depicted in Daniel together. The beast’s power comes from the dragon (Satan), and both are worshipped by the world. He is presented as a false Christ, with a false resurrection, and false teaching. The second beast is a “prophet” for the first beast, even putting to death those who wouldn’t worship the first beast. And there is no hiding. You either belong or you don’t!
Interpretation is very different depending on whether you think this is describing something future or not. Is there going to be a future time with an evil empire, a messianic leader, his disciple, world domination, and persecution of the church? Or is this referring to things that are contemporary to John’s day and time? It’s not as strange as it might sound. Nero (who truly was a monster) was dead, but rumored to be alive and coming back. Emperor worship was mandated with its own temples, and in some places you could be killed if you were unwilling to burn incense to the emperor. Numerology was popular, and letters of the alphabet were used for numbers. People’s names and phrases were frequently added together to come up with a sum. In fact, around Rome you might find written, “Nero Caeser is his name, killed his mother is the same,” because “Nero Caesar” and “killed his mother” both end up being the same number when you add the letters! Nero, in Hebrew, adds up to “666,” and much of the early church believed that this number here in Revelation was referring to him. Regardless of how you look at the passage, Nero certainly seems to be the template for this ungodly and evil beast!
So, what can we learn from the passage that helps us to live today?
- God’s people are not immune from suffering and persecution. In fact, God allows it for His purposes (13:10). We are called to be steadfast in our endurance.
- God is sovereign and in control. The beast was “permitted to exercise ruling authority for 42 months.” Permitted! Even when things look bleak and dark, God has a purpose and a plan.
- Ezekiel 9:4-6 shows God’s people being marked as His. Ephesians 1:13 says that we are sealed. Revelation 3:12 says that overcomers will have God’s name written on them. When we are God’s, we are His. If we are not, we are “marked” as followers of Satan. There is no alternative!
Joshua 24:15 “If you have no desire to worship the LORD, then choose today whom you will worship, whether it be the gods whom your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But I and my family will worship the LORD.”