Image above is a French tapestry of “The worship of the Image of the Beast” by Jean de Bandol; licensed CC BY-SA 4.0 from Wikikedia Commons.
vs 2: And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.
“Verses 1-2 are a creative reworking of Dan. 7:4-7.” (see Beale, p. 267, below)
A “triumph” was granted to a victorious Roman General to display the fruit of his victory and the glory of Roman Empire. Picture in public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.
I. Satan energizes this present evil world system in its domination of mankind.
The activity of the dragon (Satan) against the newly formed people of God [the seven churches of Asia Minor in the first Century] now picks up that activity as it will be carried out by the Empire through the second and third members of the “unholy [Trifecta]”: the emperor himself and the “chief priest” of the cult of the emperor. (See Fee, p. 177, below)
In Daniel 7:4-6 there are four beasts described. They are the world powers of Daniel’s vision. John’s Beast is a composite of three of the four of Daniel’s vision. The Roman empire was a conglomeration of all of the empires which had ruled the world previously. Its Empire ended, but the power of it was passed on the succeeding nations. (see Beale, below.)
Nebuchadnezzar’s Image worshiped by all except the three Hebrew youths. Along with Daniel, they were the only ones who could adequately advise the king. They had wisdom from God. Wikimedia commons image.
Some view this Beast as both government and an individual. I think that it is best to view it as government. It is not just the final manifestation of the end times that John has in view. It is the evil, world system in general that is present in every age. The traditional view is represented by John Calvin, who identifies the four beasts as the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires respectively.
In our day, people look to government to meet needs that God alone can meet. As one has noted before — whatever a person considers of ultimate concern is to him God. I John 2:15-17 rightly commands us —
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. [ESV]
World (kosmos in Greek), is defined by Thayer as “worldly affairs; the aggregate of things earthly; the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, etc., which, although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.” (see Thayer below).
“One of the realities of humans as religious beings is that they tend to become like the deities they worship.” (See Fee, p. 178, below.)
As governments in our day become more and more uncivil and brutal, those who look to them for their every need will become like them.
Richard M. Weaver wrote — “Most of the world lies under the control of haters of mankind.”
DORÉ, Gustave (1832-1883) The Destruction of Leviathan (Is. 27:1) image in the public domain.
1 In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea. [ESV]
II. All human government allied with the Dragon has been dealt a fatal blow by Christ on the cross.
vs. 3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.
(1) Some believe that this is just a general way of saying that whenever an evil government is seeming done away with, another will rise to take its place.
(2) Others see in this a reference to the sacking of Rome in AD 410 and the fall of the empire in AD 475. Afterwards, a conglomeration of nations will arise out of the empire which will culminate in the government of the end times.
(3) I see in this a reference to the fatal blow Jesus dealt Satan’s kingdom on the cross. The present evil world system is “passing away” (I John 2:14-16) from that fatal blow. It still hangs on; but it will be destroyed! One cannot help but see parallels here between Christ’s death and the “death blow’ of the beast.
Note both are said to have been “slain” — the same Greek word is applied to the “slain Lamb” in Rev. 5:6 — sphazō. Here is deliberate deception. The beast obviously attempts to pass himself off as a religious entity worthy of the worship of the masses because of his ”miraculously healed wound.” The word “wound” is plēgē in Greek. Its English counterpart is “plague.” Plēgē is used in Revelation of divine Judgment. This lends credence to the view that the wound was divinely inflicted by the Lord on the Cross. “The whole earth marveled at the beast” — “Marveled” — the past passive of thaumazō — is nothing less than worship.
William Blake: The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea, 1805 . Wikimedia commons image in the public domain.
Men worship evil, human governments because of Satan’s energizing of this world’s system. He causes men to stand in awe of governments that provide for the elderly, promote science, and “shelter its citizens from the cradle to the grave.” Evil governments often become cultic. Such is the danger of civil religion connected to a government. There is a danger that the church will get caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment and fail to fulfill its prophetic ministry to the government. “The church is to be the conscience of the nation.” We are not in society to confirm the course of the civil government even when that course is wrong. “My country right or wrong” is a terribly flawed maxim. We are here to provide moral leadership. Such a ministry is not popular. But, God has not called us to a popular ministry. He has called us to a faithful one.
III. Adulation of government and its services is idolatry of the worse kind.
vs. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
“Who is like the Beast?” — The function of civil government is always to keep the peace so its citizens can prosper! It is not here to receive our worship (see Romans 13) . The phrase, “Who is like the beast,” may be a parody of Michael’s name — ‘who is like God’. Also, Psalm 35:10 may be in view. The Beast — this evil world system — is accorded divine honors and prerogatives. Men tend to worship what gives them a sense of security. God sees to it that human government doesn’t completely insulate our lives. He brings calamity and heartache upon us as individuals and as a society to keep us ever looking away to the need for something transcendent.
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
Fee, G. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books. Kindle edition.
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.
Thayer, J. H. (1889). Greek Lexicon. Accessed 18 October 2020 from https://biblehub.com/greek/2889.htm
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