Revelation 13

This devotional is written by Matt Coombs.

Revelation 13

The beast out of the sea
The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?’

5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling-place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

10 ‘If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity they will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword they will be killed.’

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

The beast out of the earth
11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.


If you Google “What is the beast coming out of the sea in Revelation?” you’ll get all sorts of responses. People have tried to crow-bar all sorts of agendas into this image. Some say ‘science’ is the beast, others say, Islam is the beast, others say all democratic Presidents… In serious biblical scholarship, this question isn’t really contested - it is widely agreed that the beast in the sea was the Roman Empire with all its power, might, promise and advancement. There was no confusion about the beast being Rome. The dark blasphemous beast that crushes everything in its path. Who can defeat it? Who can wage war against it? No one could (4).
The mention of the wound on its head that had been healed is likely to be a reference to Emperor Nero who 30 years before had tried to kill himself, and prompted thoughts that it might be the end for the empire, but it turned out that ‘it had been healed’ - the empire continued marching on (3)!

The second beast is local power (11-17). There were the local elites who had ‘given breath’ to Rome, who were in bed with and had worked out how to enforce the law and culture of Rome at a local level. The Roman Empire spread across the world with force replacing existing religious systems with its Imperial cult. This ‘beast’ was now spreading across Asia Minor. The churches that Jesus wrote to at the start of this book were in towns where temples were being erected for the worship of the emperor. These temples were spiritual, political and commercial centres, and the churches were trying to work out how they as Christians were to participate in city social life where emperor worship was present. Does it not matter at all? Is it a grey area? Or should they steer well clear of it?

A generation ago under Emperor Nero, there had been tremendous persecution among Christians. Being a Christian would likely have got you killed as Peter and Paul experienced. Nero hated the new Jesus following Jewish group, he burnt their temple and killed huge numbers of them. The mark of the beast, 666, mentioned at the end of this reading in the numerology formula would have been well known at the time and spells out Nero Caesar written in Hebrew characters. 666 was also written to oppose 777. Seven is the number of perfection, so six, therefore, represents imperfection. Like a play on words, this is a play on numbers. Jesus is the real deal, and Nero is the dangerous blasphemous copy. But now under the rule of Caesar Domitian, there wasn’t overt persecution, this had mostly subsided. The issue for John is that the Christians were starting to feel at home in the empire, they were beginning to feel like they belonged in the empire and embraced its empire thinking.

This whole story is a warning to them about forgetting who it is they worship. The beasts are not persecutors in this chapter, they don’t kill or destroy the inhabitants of the earth, they deceive them (14). This story is about evil; a dragon, sea monster, and lamb resembling the earth beast. The unholy trinity, a parody antithesising the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who love and share power, these monsters deceive us just like the snake did in Genesis.

This chapter asks us, are we truly committed to worshipping and serving Jesus alone, who serves and loves and sacrificially gives away, or have we been deceived into thinking that the way of progress and attainment is in conquering and dominating others?

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