A Bible Study of Revelation Chapter 13

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What Is the Mark of the Beast? (Revelation 13)

The beast, harboring divine pretensions, hates anything and anyone devoted to the one true and living God. First, God has allowed him to make war on the saints and conquer them. This does not mean the saints surrender their faith cf. It means God allows the beast to take their lives cf. God grants the desires of the beast for a period of time, so that the beast exercises authority over every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

Such an understanding is confirmed by the next clause, for the earth dwellers are those with names not inscribed in the book of life. The book of life contains the names of those who will not perish in the lake of fire cf. Those who give their allegiance to the beast thereby demonstrate that they do not belong to the one true God. Word order is not determinative, and, given the parallels, John probably speaks of those who were inscribed in the book of life before history began. After all, the death of Christ was predetermined before history began, but it is quite another thing to say he was actually slain before the world began, for the Lamb was slain in history, not before the world began.

On the other hand, God decided before history began who would be inscribed in the book of life. John reverts to the formula used in all seven letters Rev. Those who have ears should open their ears and heed what is being said. People are told in advance about the authority of the beast and his persecution and slaying of Christians. They are informed that unbelievers will give to the beast their worship and their adoration.

Hence, believers must ready themselves. Some are destined for captivity, and to captivity they will go. Others are destined to be killed by the sword, and so it will be cf. Hence, believers are called upon to persevere and remain faithful to their Lord. They must remain loyal despite the persecution and difficulties at hand. The next paragraph —18 commences with John seeing another beast, coming up from the earth. If the first beast is the Roman Empire, the second beast is probably the imperial priesthood.

The deceitfulness of the second beast is apparent—he has two horns like a Lamb, thus presenting himself as being in accord with the Lamb, but he actually speaks like the dragon, revealing his message to be demonic. The second beast is the third member of the unholy trinity, functioning like an unholy Spirit. He exercises the authority of the first beast in his presence, compelling the inhabitants of the earth all unbelievers to worship the beast. Unbelievers are happy to comply, for the beast appeared to have divine powers, recovering from a seemingly mortal wound.

The beast, in other words, had its own version of the resurrection—just when totalitarian rule appeared to be squelched, it rose from the ashes to reign again. The plausibility of the second beast is augmented by its miraculous power cf. In other words, false religion seems to be verified empirically. Just as Elijah could bring fire down from heaven 1 Kings , so false religion here is allegedly confirmed by signs and wonders.

Both Jesus Matt. Such miracles test believers, ascertaining their devotion to the Lord Deut. The signs deceive the earth dwellers unbelievers; cf. Hence, the inhabitants of the earth make an image of the beast. Images were crafted for the sake of worship, and John reminds us again that the beast is worshiped because it seemed to be dead but sprung to life again.

Unbelievers worship the beast because of its resurrection power, because the empire seems dead but keeps springing back to life. The beast, then, is a parody and counterfeit of Christ.


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We see again that the second beast functions like the Holy Spirit. Just as the Spirit came to glorify Jesus John and anoint him with power Luke —21 , so the second beast honors and empowers the first. When John describes it granting life to the image of the beast, we should not envisage an image literally coming to life. The speech of the first beast seems supernatural, inspired, authoritative, compelling; he speaks in oracles.

But this is not a matter merely of persuasion. Similarly, Pliny writes to the emperor Trajan AD 98— about what to do with Christians: he ought not punish them if they sacrifice to the gods Epistulae Such absolute allegiance was demanded also by Nebuchadnezzar Dan.

Those who bow before the beast reveal they do not belong to the one true God cf. The second beast also enforces the power of the first through economic discrimination. No one, no matter his social class or influence, will be able to buy or sell unless he has a mark upon the forehead or hand to signify devotion to the beast. The number signifies the name of the beast cf. Many interpreters take this literally, as if a literal mark will be imprinted in some fashion on foreheads and hands, but the language is likely symbolic.

Just as the seal on the foreheads of the , is not literal, neither should this mark be understood literally. In any case, the two beasts conspire to exclude believers from the marketplace. John closes this section with a statement that has fascinated and puzzled interpreters throughout history.

Revelation 13 Commentary - Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

He summons the readers to be wise so that they can calculate the number of the beast. We are told the number is the number of a man: Some manuscripts read , but the best reading is If the number refers to a particular individual, the best guess is Nero. Daniel sees this vision and wants to know the interpretation of these things Daniel The answer given is that the four beasts represent the four kingdoms that arise out of the earth. Daniel tells us that we begin with the Babylonian Empire. Therefore the Babylonian Empire is the first beast.

The second beast is the empire that conquered the Babylonians, which was the Persian Empire also called the Medo-Persian Empire. The third beast is the empire that conquered the Persians which was the Grecian Empire. The fourth beast is the empire that conquered the Greeks and that was the Roman Empire.

The fourth terrifying beast that Daniel prophesied about and about which Revelation 13 is referring to is the Roman Empire which ruled from around 44 BC to AD. To show that Daniel and John are seeing the same beast let us quickly look at the parallels in their descriptions.

Revelation 13 - The First and Second Beast

We have already noted that both come out of the sea Daniel ; Revelation and both have ten horns Daniel ; Revelation Both beasts speak blasphemous words Daniel ,25; Revelation , The duration of power is the same for both beasts. The most important parallel is found in the actions of the beast. Daniel records that the beast will make war with the saints and prevail over them. With this interpretation set, we can look at Revelation and notice what is being prophesied about the Roman Empire. Verse 1 tells us that the Roman Empire is going to exercise great power and authority.

This power and authority is given to it by the dragon , which was identified as Satan in Revelation The scriptures describe Satan as the ruler of this world Ephesians ; 1 John The first prophecy about the Roman Empire in the book of Daniel made this significant point.

follow link And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. Daniel ESV. An unusual statement is made about the beast. One of the heads of the beast takes a fatal wound but the fatal wound heals.

This is quite a statement. Verse 14 says it was wounded by the sword and yet lived. For one of the heads to receive a fatal wound suggests that the beast was about to die but somehow, to the amazement of the world, the beast revives and is healed. The question about this image is this: Does the fatally wounded head that is healed represent a particular emperor of the Roman Empire or is it just a reflection of the state of affairs in the Roman Empire?

Who Is The Beast? (13:1-2)

Verse 3 suggests an event that will happen within the Roman Empire that will cause people to believe it is going to collapse. Rather than collapse, the empire will revive and be as strong as ever. There are a few situations that took place in the Roman Empire that could fit this scenario.

I believe this likely refers to the civil war that broke out within the Roman Empire for over one year after the death of Emperor Nero perhaps the wounded head is the death of Emperor Nero.


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  • Four emperors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, all seized the throne in less than one year. Two of the these three were murdered and one committed suicide. It was a time of unrest and upheaval within the Roman Empire as the Roman legions were divided in their support of each one claiming to be emperor. Vespasian becomes emperor at the end of 69 AD and stabilizes the empire.

    This causes the world to worship the beast. The people perceive the Roman Empire as invincible and unable to collapse. They give their allegiance to the empire and by doing so are giving their allegiance and worship to the dragon Satan who is the authority and power behind the beast.

    The empire has no regard for the true and living God.