Revelation Conference, Session 3 – Dr. Kim Riddlebarger – The Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet. Revelation 13 and the enemies of God’s people

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Revelation 13

13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

10 If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. 

Know your enemy.  John repeatedly warns us about the tactics of our enemy.  In Revelation 13 we are warned of what may be our greatest enemy, a demon-empowered enemy.  This is a difficult text to interpret and so we must put it in its context of the book and its historical context, the book being written 95 AD.  This book and message was already written as a comfort to the Christians of the original audience.  This is another angle of looking at the drama of redemption (in contrast to 6-11).  There are 7 characters mentioned, the dragon, woman who is the Israel of God, antichrist, false prophet, church on the earth, angelic prophets, the son of man.

The dragon

The woman represents Israel and the people of God.  The dragon, the serpent, wars with the woman and the woman’s seed.  The dragon persecutes the people of God.  The crowns represent kingdoms and and number 7 represents (?, I didn’t get this).  Satan may be fierce and powerful, but he is a creature and subordinate to God and he suffers defeat and no longer has access to the throne of God to bring accusations to God.  So lashing out in anger, he attacks the woman, the people of God.  He attacks for 1,260 days, which represents this present age.  God has not left his people on their own.  The church of the NT is like Israel of the OT that must, trust God and move toward the New Jerusalem as we wander toward the promised Land.  John now introduces two other characters.  John tells in Rev. 12:17 that the dragon wages war on the church. 

The church was indeed persecuted by the Roman Empire and the church already began to experience this at the time of John’s writing.  When John sees the beast coming out of the sea, it is the Roman Empire.  The activities of this beast are not limited to the Roman Empire.  In Rev. 17, the beast will rise again and again throughout this age only to be thwarted by the power of God.  We see it in Hitler, China, Islam, and other tragedies and enemies of the people of God throughout history.  The beast’s apparent victory is not victory at all because the martyrs live with Christ and they overcome the beast by the blood of the Lamb.  This brings us to Rev. 13:1-10.

The first beast

A word of warning about context.  In Rev. 13:11-18 calls for wisdom in understanding this text.    We should listen to the book of Revelation read aloud on CD.  John is asking his reader not only how Jesus fulfills OT passages, but how he fulfilled these things and how it is playing out in the current scene.  In other words, once Christ has come and fulfilled things, the messianic age has begun and the battle takes on new dimensions as we enter the final chapter of redemptive history.  How does Christ’s victory relate to the ongoing struggle of the church with the powers of this world?  The final outcome is guaranteed, but we must face the beast and go to battle.  The historical context in John’s day and age is imperial Rome and Emperor cult.  This empire becomes a symbol of a godless rule.  Rome is the 4th beast in the prophecy of Daniel.  It manifests itself again and again throughout the church age, waging war upon the saints.    Will there be a future final beast?  We cannot be sure for Revelation doesn’t answer that.  We are to focus on the preaching of the gospel and the use of the sacraments.  There have been a number of enemies of the people of God who have used the power of the state.  This is the primary lens by which John views the Roman Empire as the oppressor of the people of God, and uses them as the symbol, until Christ returns. 

13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.

The sea is a symbol as an abyss, where Satan is cast.  The beast mirrors the dragon.  The beast draws its power directly from Satan and attacks God’s church.  The beast is a present reality that is persecuting the church.  Like the beast in Daniel 7, so in vv. 5-6 of chapter 13 it attacks the people of God with haughty words.  The time, times, and half a time refers to period between the first and second comings.  God hides his people out in the wilderness.  The beast now imitates the power of God, specifically the resurrection of Christ (v. 3). 

One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.

The beast dies and rises again and stages his own second coming.  The image of Nero lurks in the back of the book of Revelation.  Nero’s personal evil is unspeakable (Pastor Kim dscribed the evil indulgences of Nero).  What makes Nero’s reign so important?  He was the first emperor to officially persecute the church as a state objective.  The Jews compared Nero as an antichrist figure.  And Christians, from then, have followed suit.  Nero is the historical backdrop for the persecution of the oppressive Roman government.  But what about the “resurrection” acts of the beast?  A whole series of emperors saw themselves as deities and continued to exalt themselves and oppress the church.  The revival of a powerful institution, after being severely weakened, shows itself to be invincible and unstoppable.  Given his authority and constancy, it is no surprise that they worship the dragon (v. 4), who they are worshipping unknowingly by submitting to the beast.  Those whose names are written in the book of life are at the mercy of the dragon, and the dragon has no mercy.   This is still a trial today.  In the 1990’s, an average of 4 Christians per day were killed for following Jesus Christ as Lord.  John can tell us to persevere, even in light of this persecution, because he knows how the story ends.  But will there be a final beast? 

The second beast – the False prophet (vv. 11-18)

13:11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.

This beast is called the false prophet, a messianic pretender.  The first beast comes from the sea, this one comes from the land, to show their desire to show the dragon’s reign over land and sea.  He is a false messiah mimicking the two prophets of Rev. 11 and promotes false worship towards false gods, worshipping the beast, and the beast here is the state (the first beast).    He’s a master of religious deception.    In his own mind he shall become great.  This second beast has been associated with many different things (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church).  There may be truth in that.  But there are to be many antichrists (see 1 John and 2 John).  But the deception here is not general.  His specific purpose is to get people to worship the state and its leader.  He is a propagandist par excellence.  The connection between the false prophet and the Roman empire is very important because it shows that the false prophet can be known as the imperial cult. 

The mark of the beast

They are to be marked on the hand or the forehead.  Despite the reference by the dispensationalists, there is no advanced technological chip to be inserted.  The whole period between the first and second advent of Christ is the “great tribulation.”  All those who worship the beast have the mark.  All those who do not believe in Christ are owned by the beast.  This may be a reference to the emperor’s image on coins and documents.  The Christians were already forced to choose and to face the persecution and estrangement from the world.  The hand or forehead may be symbolic for some different possible things.

What about the 666?  There is a numeric value given to this.   This is the number of man, connected to Nero.  This 666 point beyond Nero to the beast of every age.  John makes the point that this counterfeit Trinity consistently falls short of 777.  It cannot successfully copy the Trinity but constantly falls short and never reaches its goal.   This number is an apocalyptic symbol of those under the beasts,  who force people to acknowledge that Caesar is Lord.  This was a current reality at the time of John, it was seen in kids singing about Hitler as their savior, and it will be hear until Christ comes.

Conclusion:

1.       We are not to fear the beast, our hope is in Christ and his finished work.  We are to fight against sin, the devil, and his whole dominion.  666 is the number of man.  If they kill us, we live with Christ.  If we live, we preach the gospel.  We have already overcome the devil through the finished work of the lamb.

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About pjtibayan

I love Jesus Christ and live to share life and share Jesus together with First Southern Baptist Church of Bellflower primarily to Southeast Los Angeles County.
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