Image above: The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883) Wikimedia Commons
I. Satan is permitted to do his evil, but he is restrained by God.
vs. 5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.
“Authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.” NASB — “Was given” is passive voice. This indicates an implied divine agency. Satan gives the beast his authority. However, it is God himself who permits this. Satan would do much more than he is able to do but for God’s sovereign control over all things. The problem of evil is insurmountable from human understanding. We can try to circumvent it by shaving off God’s sovereignty and making it look like he is not in control of all things. I would rather be without understanding and have God sovereign than to view Satan’s actions as uncontrollable. This is where humility and prayer come in.
The Beast is allowed to speak his blasphemies for 42 months — the time of the Church’s testimony and the time between Christ’s Ascension and Second Coming. Note that John uses the accusative of time to indicate duration. False governments oppose God’s Church, but they do not wipe it out. And they cannot do it except God permit it.
II. Satan is our implacable foe who spews out slander and lies.
vs. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling (tabernacle), that is, those who dwell in heaven.
The Beast’s blasphemies — blasphēmia = slander. The word for “dwelling place” is skēnē — “tabernacle.” It is a reference to heaven and not to the heavenly tabernacle which was the prototype of the earthly one. The verb form of the noun is used in the next phrase — skenō. Godless governments hate God, heaven, and all who dwell there. No wonder we are so persecuted. We are citizens of that realm they hate so much.
III. God Fulfills His purposes through the war Satan wages on the saints.
vs. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation…
“War on the saints” — Here again, as in the 5th verse, we encounter the past tense passive voice of didomi — to give. It refers to God’s permission to do something. God permits civil governments to oppose his people. God has given authority to civil government to rule over all people. When such government is good, God’s people prosper. When it is evil, God’s people suffer. By and large, an evil civil government will oppose God’s people. Maybe the evil government is used by God to keep the Church pure. God’s people will ultimately prosper in spite of the activities of an evil civil government. Romans 8:28 functions in this sphere as well as in an individual’s life.
IV. Satan lures the earth-dwellers to worship the image of the beast from the sea (godless government).
vs. 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
Those who worship the Beast and those who refuse — The “earth-dwellers” are those who are opposed to God and his people. They find no other ambition and desire except to live here on earth.
The concept for “dwelling” is the same as that expressed in verse 7 in regard to the saints, but the words are different — vs. 7 = skēnē ; vs. 8 = katoikeō = [kata “down” + oikeō “dwell in a house”] has the idea of “settling down” in it. These folk who settle down in this world system are unsaved. They are not of the elect. They one desire is a home on this earth.
Psalm 135 makes a telling observation about idolators —
15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
16 They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
17 they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them.
“Before the foundation of the world” — This phrase should be attached to the words “the Lamb who was slain. . .” and not attached to the word “written… .” The emphasis is upon redemption before the world was even made. It demonstrates that the plan of salvation was not an afterthought with God. It was in his plan all along. ‘Written’ is in the perfect tense. They were written in the past and continue in the book in the present. See NIV Rev. 13:8
V. God sustains us in our warfare with godless humans and Satan as we live true to Him.
vs. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear:
This phrase can either refer to what precedes or to what follows. It is a solemn call to the hearer in the public worship service to whom the epistle is being read to listen if he has spiritual senses with which to perceive it. It is a characteristic phrase used in the synoptic gospels (see Mark 4:9 and Rev. 2:7). The call here in Revelation is in the singular, whereas our Lord’s call is in the plural. It is also in the present tense stressing the fact that the message is timeless. I feel the solemn call goes with what follows because it fits in with the formula since it starts with the same words ‘if anyone…
vs. 10 If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
Captivity and Killing — This is a confirmation of the sure purpose of God which is at work during this entire period of the testimony and persecution of the Church. The Christian destined for captivity will go there and the Christian destined to be killed will be killed. Why does the Lord say the obvious? Is this, Whatever will be, will be’ kind of fatalism? No, but the Lord is assuring the suffering church that evil is also within the confines of his will.
Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.
North Korean refugee John Choi* shares how he grew up believing Christians were evil and dangerous. “We watched the government’s propaganda alongside public executions. It told us that Christians wanted to kidnap children and that the cross was a symbol of the devil.
“Even in nursery school, we had to bow to the pictures of the first leaders of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung and his son, Kim Jong-Il. The first man I saw executed was a Christian. They said he had smuggled Christian things into the country and had enticed people into the church. The whole village was told to come and watch. The children were allowed to sit at the front to get a good view. It enforced this belief that Christians were dangerous.”
Despite these lies and toxic culture, God broke through to this new believer … this new member of our family. Praise God that he found faith in the one, true God. * Not his real name. (see Open Doors USA, below.)
The saints’ perseverance — Christians move forward and trust the God who works in such a plan as has been outlined above. It is not blind fatalism. It is trust in a God who works for our good in the midst of seeming chaos. Who covers us with His protection until His plan is accomplished for our lives. Then, he takes us home to heaven to live with Him forever.
Next time the Beast from the Land!
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation)
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Open Doors USA. (2020). Accessed 21 October 2020 from https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/urgent-north-korean-christian-arrested-and-in-grave-danger-pray-for-release/
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