The season of scary things is upon us. People are decorating their yards with frightening symbols and coming to ring our doorbells and deliver spooky messages. It’s election season.
Of course, the same description also conveniently works for Halloween.
As both seasons of trading on fear get nearer, it might be useful to reflect on a frightening passage of Scripture—Revelation 13—a chapter filled with horrible monsters.
Ironically, the book of Revelation is not intended to frighten Christians. Revelation is intended more as a call to worship than a call to fear. Consider the many song breaks in Revelation.
The call to worship comes with instruction to distinguish between what is true and what is false. On one hand, those who appear prosperous and powerful by the world’s standards are doomed unless they repent. On the other hand, those who appear conquered will triumph. It all hinges on who is worshipped, who is believed, who is obeyed.
The beasts pictured in Revelation 13
A dragon stands in for Satan, who calls a ten-horned, ten-crowned, seven-headed, leopard-bear-lion to receive worship and to destroy any who oppose him (Revelation 13:8). A second beast looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon. His role is to recruit for the first beast, to deceive and to center the economy on worship of the first beast (13:16-17). The first beast has a PR beast!
Richard Bauckham, in The Theology of the Book of Revelation, asserts John paints a picture with the dragon, the first beast and the second beast not just of an Anti-Christ, but an Anti-Trinity: Satan in place of God, the first beast in place of Jesus, and the second beast in place of the Holy Spirit.
Rivers of ink have been spilled attempting to calculate the number of the beast and which living person it might be. All of these attempts hinge on a strange idea, that God would give to the first-century church a key piece of information to sit on for several thousand years, waiting to be decoded.
The entire book of Revelation was intended first for the first-century church and then for all successive believers. Any first-century Christian living in Asia Minor would have picked up the hints.
Ten horns and ten crowns were the ten emperors of Rome up to that point. The seven heads were the seven hills on which Rome sat. The authority over all the earth set in place by Satan and aided and abetted by Roman religion is the name never mentioned in Revelation—the Roman Empire. The ‘man’ of Revelation 13:18, calculated by a process lost to us in the 21st century, is likely Emperor Nero, who stood as a kind of quintessential Caesar.
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SOURCE: Baptist Standard, Patrick Adair