Victims of the Beast

T-Rex - Photo by Huang Yingone on Unsplash
 - The Beast from the sea wages war against the followers of the Lamb in obedience to its overlord, the Dragon – Revelation 13:6-10. - [Photo by Huang Yingone on Unsplash].

In Revelation, the “beast from the sea” was assigned by the “Dragon” to annihilate the “saints.” To facilitate this, he was given authority over all nations and peoples. In the vision, humanity was divided into two groups - Men and women who “render homage to the Beast,” the “inhabitants of the earth,” and those who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes”; that is, the “saints” - “They who tabernacle in heaven” and have the “testimony of Jesus.”

Paradoxically, this “victory” over the “saints” was the very thing that vindicated them but sealed the fate of the “Dragon,” the “beast from the sea,” and the “false prophet” – All three were cast into the “lake of fire.” Contrary to human wisdom, for followers of the “Lamb,” martyrdom is defeat for God’s redemptive plan but integral to it.
  • (Revelation 13:6-10) - “And he opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, they who were tabernacling in heaven. And it was given to him TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND TO OVERCOME THEM; and there was given him authority against EVERY TRIBE AND PEOPLE AND TONGUE AND NATION. And all who are dwelling upon the earth will do homage to him, everyone whose name is not WRITTEN IN THE SCROLL of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear: let him hear. If anyone is going into captivity, into captivity he must go. If anyone is to be slain with the sword, must with a sword be slain. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.”
The “beast” was authorized to “slander” God, His “name,” His “tabernacle,” and those who were “tabernacling in heaven.” The imagery is derived from the portable Tabernacle carried by Israel in the wilderness - (Revelation 15:5, “After these things I saw the sanctuary of the tent of testimony in heaven”).

In the vision of the “measured sanctuary,” the “outer court” was handed over to be “trampled” for “forty-months” by the nations. Likewise, in the “vision of the beast from the sea,” the “beast” was authorized to “slander the tabernacle and they who tabernacle in heaven” over the same period of “forty-two months.”

The group of “priests” John saw worshiping in the “sanctuary” was identical to the group that “tabernacled in heaven.” Thus, during the “forty-two months,” the “beast” was authorized to slander and otherwise “trample underfoot” the “saints” - (Revelation 11:1-2).

Those who “tabernacle in heaven” were not supernatural beings but believers being contrasted with the “inhabitants of the earth.” The Greek verb for “tabernacling” or skénoō is from the noun skéné, that is, “tent.” This is the same noun used in the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible for the “tabernacle” of Israel. Elsewhere in Revelation, both the noun and verb portray the people of God as His “tabernacle” - (Exodus 25:926:1-35, Revelation 3:10, 15:521:3).

This understanding is demonstrated by the clause - “His name and his tabernacle, those tabernacling in heaven.” There is no conjunction, no “and” preceding the two clauses. “Those that tabernacle in heaven” define and identify the “tabernacle. The New American Standard Version reflects this sense, rendering it - “His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.”

Blasphemy” or “slander” refers to accusations made against God’s people, not to profanity. Among the seven churches of Asia, this manifested in the accusations laid against them before local magistrates by the “synagogue of Satan” - (Revelation 2:93:912:10).

The description of the “beast” having authority over all nations alludes to the story of King Nebuchadnezzar and his “great golden image.” The Babylonian ruler commanded that all the “peoples and nations” must render homage to his image. The dimensions of this “golden image” – 60 cubits by 6 cubits - also provide two of the numbers that form the “number of the beast” – 666:
  • (Daniel 3:4-7) – “Therefore, at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the cornet…all the peoples, nations, and tongues fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”
The repeated use of a passage from Daniel links several passages in Revelation that deal with the attack against the “saints” by the “Dragon.” Whether he “wages war” against Michael, the “Lamb,” the “saints,” the “seed of the woman,” or “they who have the testimony of Jesus” amounts to the same thing. Satan attacks the “Lamb” by persecuting everyone whose name is written in his “book of life”:
  • (Daniel 7:21) – “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.”
  • (Revelation 11:7) – “When they finish their testimony, the Beast that is ascending out of the Abyss will MAKE WAR WITH THEM, OVERCOME THEM, AND KILL THEM.”
  • (Revelation 12:17) – “The dragon waxed wroth with the woman and went away TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REST OF HER SEED, they that keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.”
  • (Revelation 13:7-8) – “And it was given to it TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND TO OVERCOME THEMAnd all the inhabitants of the earth render homage to it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that has been slain.
Thus, the war by the “beast from the sea” against the “saints” was the same “war” as the one waged against the “two witnesses” and the “seed of the woman.” It was the outworking on the earth of the heavenly “war” between the “Dragon” and “Michael.”

Enraged” after his expulsion from heaven, the “Dragon” began his final assault against the “seed of the Woman” by means of “his seed” - the “beast from the sea” and the “beast from the earth,” the False Prophet - (Revelation 11:7, 12:17-13:1).

Nowhere does Revelation described any war waged by the “beast” against nation-states or their armies. Instead, the “beast” waged war on the “saints.” Members of the latter group were recognizable because they had their “names written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

In chapter 13, the “beast” could not persecute the “saints” until the authority to do so was “given to it” (edothé) – The same verbal formula used when one of its “ten horns” received a “mouth speaking blasphemies against God and those who were tabernacling in the heaven.” Thus, those who were “tabernacling in heaven” were identical to the “saints” persecuted by the “beast” - (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18, 14:12).

The passage in chapter 13 ends with the exhortation, “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” That “saints” were followers of Jesus is made clear in the expanded form in the next chapter - “Here is the perseverance of the saints, they who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” - (Revelation 13:10, 14:12).

The “inhabitants of the earth” are identified negatively - “Everyone whose name is not written in the book of life of the Lamb.” What determined identity was whether one rendered homage to the “beast” or followed the “Lamb.”

Written in THE BOOK OF LIFE OF THE LAMB slain from the foundation of the world.” The clause is derived from Daniel 12:1 – “And at that time your people will be delivered, everyone that will be found WRITTEN IN THE BOOK.” However, in Revelation, it is expanded to the “book of the life of the Lamb.” It is the death of the “Lamb” that redeems men and women, and “inscribes” their names in his book - (Revelation 3:20, 21:27).

Slain from the foundation of the world.” The clause uses the same Greek verb for “slain” as that used for the “slain” Lamb. The same verb is applied to the souls under the altar “slain for their testimony,” the deadly wound of the Beast in imitation of the Lamb, and the “blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” (Revelation 5:6-12, 6:9, 13:3, 18:24).

Serpent - Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash
Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

Having been slain from the foundation of the world.” This does not mean the Son has died repeatedly since the creation. The participle is in a perfect tense, signifying an action completed in the past with results continuing into the present. Revelation traces the destructive efforts by the “Dragon” back to the Garden of Eden, which is why he is identified also as the “ancient serpent” - (Revelation 12:9, 20:1-3).

Similarly, the “beast” is a trans-historical figure that has existed since the incident at the Tower of Babel. The “beast” that John saw “was, is not, and is going to ascend out of the Abyss,” and its seven heads represented “seven kings; five are fallen, one is, the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a little while.” Everyone whose name was not written in the book of life “from the foundation of the world” wondered after the “beast” because it “was, and is not, and will come” - (Genesis 11:1-9, Revelation 17:8-10).

In its efforts to destroy the church, the “beast” mimicked the “Lamb” and God. It also had a death and “resurrection” experience, just like the “Lamb.” The description “it was, and is not, and will come” echoes the earlier description applied to God - “He who is, who was and who is coming” - (Revelation 1:44:811:17).

In chapter 13, the passage concludes with an exhortation - “If anyone is FOR CAPTIVITY, INTO CAPTIVITY he goes. If anyone is to be slain WITH SWORD, WITH SWORD must he be slain.” Saints do not escape persecution or violent death.  The verse alludes to a pronouncement from the book of Jeremiah originally given to the kingdom of Judah and anticipated her captivity in Babylon:
  • (Jeremiah 15:1-2) – “Then said Yahweh to me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight and let them depart. And it shall come to pass, when they say to you, Where shall we go forth? Then you will tell them, Thus says Yahweh, Such as are FOR DEATH, TO DEATH; and such as are FOR THE SWORD, TO THE SWORD; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are FOR CAPTIVITY, TO CAPTIVITY.”
The book of Revelation gives the passage an ironic twist. What was a word of judgment becomes the means by which the “saints” overcome end-time “Babylon.” Her “victory” over the “saints” was only apparent. God remembered her sins and “judged your judgment on her…and in an hour she was desolated,” for in her was found the “blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth” - (Revelation 17:6, 18:20-24).
In chapter 13, the call to “hear” echoes the repeated exhortation from the letters to the seven churches - “If anyone has an ear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” The persecution “saints” suffer at the hands of the “beast” is their “perseverance,” that is, their persevering testimony in persecution. The verse begins with the adverb hōde or “here,” which is emphatic in the Greek clause to stress the point.  What looked like defeat to the “inhabitants of the earth,” in fact, was the victory of the “saints.”

Nowhere does the book of Revelation depict or mentions any escape from suffering as an option for followers of the “Lamb.” Believers are called to endure trials faithfully and to persevere in their witness. This is not only how they “overcome,” but more importantly, how God uses them to bear “testimony” to the “inhabitants of the earth.” The “saints” overcome by the “blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their life unto death” – (Revelation 12:11).

In summary, the target of the “war” launched by the “Dragon” is the church – The “saints,” those who “have the testimony of Jesus” and follow the “Lamb wherever he goes.” As for the rest of humanity, already the “inhabitants of the earth” are under the authority of the “beast,” deceived by the False Prophet, and therefore, render homage to the “beast.” What would be the point of waging war against them?


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