Revelation #22 Revelation 12:13-17 through 13:10 End Times War Against Believers



We pick up from where we left off last time.  The woman clothed with the sun we identified as the ideal people of God from whom the Messiah has come.  The dragon thought it had a victory as it waited to devour the Messiah, but instead, it is through the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus that the tables are turned. Satan the accusor of humanity loses its place in the Throne Room of God.


Revelation 12:13-17 (MSG)

When the Dragon saw he'd been thrown to earth, he went after the Woman who had given birth to the Man-Child. The Woman was given wings of a great eagle to fly to a place in the desert to be kept in safety and comfort for a time and times and half a time, safe and sound from the Serpent. The Serpent vomited a river of water to swamp and drown her, but earth came to her help, swallowing the water the Dragon spewed from its mouth. Helpless with rage, the Dragon raged at the Woman, then went off to make war with the rest of her children, the children who keep God's commands and hold firm to the witness of Jesus.


The Heavenly Woman is given wings and escapes into the desert, like when Israel led by Moses escaped Pharoah into the desert. Exodus 19:4 reads “I bore you one eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.   Since the Woman represents the people of God it may be wise to understand that John is telling his readers that even though the Dragon is going to wage war on the Church those who have bent the knee to the Lordship of Jesus will ultimately be safe within a spiritual refuge. The Dragon will not defeat them spiritually. John does not mean that the church will be isolated from persecution or the Dragon's rage, but rather spiritually protected from the lies and propaganda that have the potential of destroying a person’s faith.


The vomited flood waters from the Dragons mouth is again another metaphor from the Old Testament used to represent overwhelming evil (Psalms 18:4, Isaiah 43:2).  This flood of overwhelming evil will be ineffective, the 3 ½ years is a sign of incompleteness and failure. That this overwhelming evil erupts from the mouth refers to the lies that will turn people against the faithful. The river of lies and deception will not cause the faithful to stumble. Like Pharoah’s army, the Dragon will pursue but at some point be overcome by the very evil it spewed.


The Dragon can’t destroy the Church as a whole, so it now focuses on the individual members of the Church. John turns our attention to how this war against all those who keep the commands of God and hold firm to the faith will be waged.  The Dragon knowing that its demise is close at hand delegates its power to two beasts to do the work of destroying the faith of those who obey God.


Revelation 13:1-10 (MSG)

1 And the Dragon stood on the shore of the sea. I saw a Beast rising from the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads—on each horn a crown, and each head inscribed with a blasphemous name. The Beast I saw looked like a leopard with bear paws and a lion's mouth. The Dragon turned over its power to it, its throne and great authority.


3 One of the Beast's heads looked as if it had been struck a deathblow, and then healed. The whole earth was agog, gaping at the Beast. They worshiped the Dragon who gave the Beast authority, and they worshiped the Beast, exclaiming, "There's never been anything like the Beast! No one would dare go to war with the Beast!"


5 The Beast had a loud mouth, boastful and blasphemous. It could do anything it wanted for forty-two months. It yelled blasphemies against God, blasphemed his Name, blasphemed his Church, especially those already dwelling with God in Heaven. It was permitted to make war on God's holy people and conquer them. It held absolute sway over all tribes and peoples, tongues, and races. Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world's foundation in the slaughtered Lamb's Book of Life will worship the Beast.


There is always a balance in John’s vision.  We have been introduced to the One Upon the Throne, we can simply say God. The Dragon is the antithesis, the one opposed to God and God’s rule.  When Jesus appears in the throne room of God he appears as a slain lambkin. The Greek for lambkin is arnion. Now here in chapter 13 we have this Beast rising from the sea.  The Greek for beast is therion. What we have is arnion verse therion.  People will only be able to root for one.  You will either be with arnion or you will be with therion. The Beast is the Anti-Christ.


Scholars tell us that the sea represents “a symbol of the agitated surface of unregenerate humanity (Isaiah 57:20)…  a seething cauldron of confused national and social life out of which” (Ladd, p. 177), tyrants emerge (Mounce p. 249). It is out of social chaos that the Beast can arise.  An environment of order, prosperity, and peace prevents the Beast’s rising.  As we have seen with the Seals and the Trumpets, things are in great turmoil, upheavals in the foundations of society have crumbled, and disasters on every side.  People are desperate for a savior.


John uses Daniel chapter 7 to paint his image of the Beast.  We know that in Daniel’s vision, the Beasts represent kingdoms that were opposed to Israel, Babylonia, Media, Persia, and Greece. From the vision in Daniel chapter 2 we know that Rome is symbolized by the feet of the great statue that is composed of clay and iron.  In Daniel 7 the fourth beast has great iron teeth, tying the vision to Rome.  Therefore John is telling us that the Anti-Christ, the Beast, is the head of the Roman empire.


The Leader of Roman Empire is the puppet of the Dragon.  The Empire is the source of despair and the source of the persecution of Christians.  The Empire is a pagan society.  Out of the Roman Empire came its emperors, and John sees them all as Anti-Christs.  At the time of John’s writing the emperor is Domitian.  


Domitian was known for his authoritarian rule.  He squashed all threats to his power.  The Roman legions enforced his will and rule, thus John proclaimed that the people wondered who could wage war against him and defeat him. How bleak an outlook believers must have been presented with, a power you can not defeat.  Might as well give in and go with the flow. “Resistance is futile.”


Ceasar is Lord, and now, in turn, Domitian required affirmation of his claim of divinity. Dominus et Deus, “Lord and God” is found in public documents bearing his name. The ruling religious party of the Jews went nuts when Jesus claimed to be the son of God (Matthew 26:65). .  They charged Jesus with blasphemy.  With a loudmouth, that is with words, the Emperor deifies himself (Daniel 7:8). The Empire will have no other God but Domitian and everyone will worship him.  To worship the Beast is to worship the Dragon who we have identified as Satan, the Accusor of God’s people.


The Beast, John’s subtle name for the Roman Emperor, has limited power.  42 months, 3 ½ years, 1260 days, a time, times, and half a time (Daniel 7:25), that broken 7, the Beast will be allowed to war against God’s people and conquer them (Daniel 7:21). This is not a time frame but the symbol of a failed effort. But still, this is an ominous forewarning. For a believer to be conquered, they must renounce their faith.  Direct threats of physical harm and imprisonment can coerce a person to do something they would not normally choose. Being denied access to jobs or property, or the threat of destroying someone’s livelihood can be coercive. Public humiliation, mockery, and discrimination are strong forces for demanding compliance. Unfortunately, we also know of believers being martyred, murdered, for their refusal to recant their faith.

Our brother and sisters who follow the teachings of John Calvin see their doctrine of double predestination in verse 8. “Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world's foundation in the slaughtered Lamb's Book of Life will worship the Beast.” The doctrine of double predestination states that God has already chosen who will be saved and who will be damned. There is a terrible tendency to make scripture fit our doctrine instead of our doctrine fitting scripture.  Of course, the original language presents difficulties for modern scholars. The phrase in question is “from the world’s foundation.” The Greek can be translated to read “the Lamb that has been slain from the foundation of the world” (Mounce, p. 256).  God’s plan of salvation is what has been decreed, not which individuals will take advantage of His gift. That idea of course fits well with our doctrine of human free will. I hope you catch the irony in that argument. Those who follow the Beast have kept themselves from being listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They refuse to worship God, so they default to worshiping the system of governance and the leader of the government in which they find themselves.  They worship the Beast by giving the system its due. 


Rev 13:9-10 (MSG)

Are you listening to this? They've made their bed; now they must lie in it. Anyone marked for prison goes straight to prison; anyone pulling a sword goes down by the sword. Meanwhile, God's holy people passionately and faithfully stand their ground.


The question that needs to be answered is “Who are they?” Are “they” the followers of the Beast or are “they” believers? Is John telling us that those who persecute the Church with violence will be swallowed up in violence or is John telling believers even if it's prison or the sword that the Beast is going to persecute you with God is still in charge? The scholars are divided. Is this statement assurance that those who harm the church will receive just punishment or a warning that the church must not defend itself by the use of force (Rotz, p.  204)? The Apostle Matthew records Jesus saying  “ All who use swords are destroyed by swords” (Matthew 26:52 (MSG). The answer that seems to fit best considering this is to be a word of encouragement to the faithful is that those who are persecuting “will meet their just retribution” (Ladd, p. 182). Until that time those who have bent the knee to the Lordship of Christ will have to endure.


Let’s recap what has transpired.  The Dragon, whom we have identified as the accusor of God’s people, the snake in the Garden of Eden, the devil was waiting to destroy the Messiah.  Failing to do so, the Dragon attacked the Heavenly Woman, the real people of God from whom the Messiah came.  Failing to destroy the Heavenly Woman, the Dragon turns its attention to the individual members of the Church. To wage its war against the believers the Dragon summons the Beast from the Sea.  The way the Beast conquers is to get the children of God to renounce their faith.  The Beast is a personification of the human that is at the head of the political system that demands allegiance and worship. The persecution continues of Christ's followers. God still has the door to salvation open to anyone who will turn to Him as the faithful are to passionately and faithfully standing their ground.


John serves up a word of caution to believers.  Do not succumb to any pressure that would replace God as the authority in your life.


Don’t give in to peer pressure and public opinion to renounce your faith.

Don’t give in to the demands of government to silence your faith.

Don’t give in to egoism which makes you the authority destroying your faith.


Trust God in the hard times.

When it looks like the whole world is coming down on you remain steadfast.

In rough, intense, and catastrophic times ultimate victory


Any government or authority that seeks to silence your witness is Beastly.  It is Anti-Christ.









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