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Revelation 13, The Beasts

The Pale Horseman - Revelation Narrative Lectionary Vintage Image

The Pale Horseman - Revelation Narrative Lectionary Vintage Image

Commentary Title Goes Here

Today's reflection has been written by Daniel D. Maurer.

No other chapter in the book of the Bible has quite had a hold on people's imaginations like the 13th Chapter of the Book of Revelation.

The faithful have long argued over exactly what this Beast refers to. The more traditional view is that the Beast stood for Rome, or more specifically Nero or the Emperor Domitian.  Lately, though, this has all been called into question. 

The latest scholarship suggests that the Beast instead stands for the larger influence the Roman empire had on the populace at the time. As a conservative, traditional follower of Jesus, the Johannine author of the Book of Revelation suggested that Christ followers should vehemently NOT adopt any newfangled beliefs such as female leaders in the church, or gentiles who didn't become more Jewish in their practice of following Jesus.

And then, of course, we get the number. You know, the BIG ONE 666. Oooooh. Spooky. Crack out the horror movies. The fact of the matter is we don't really know what it means. Some say it spells out Nero. Others say it spells out some other leader when using a type of numerology called gematria

What does this mean for us . . . today as far as following Jesus and learning to live our faith? In my view, nothing. But as a historical point, I suppose it's good to realize that governments that place requirements on their people to believe a certain way, or trust in something, should probably be better off not trusted themselves in the first place.

Narrative Lectionary Text

Revelation 13 - The First Beast

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads; and on its horns were ten diadems, and on its heads were blasphemous names. 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 the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have received a death-blow, but its mortal wound had been healed. In amazement the whole earth followed the beast. They worshipped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?’

The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also, it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. It was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered.

Let anyone who has an ear listen: 
If you are to be taken captive,
   into captivity you go;
if you kill with the sword,
   with the sword you must be killed.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

The Second Beast

Then I saw another beast that rose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and it makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound had been healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of all; and by the signs that it is allowed to perform on behalf of the beast, it deceives the inhabitants of earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that had been wounded by the sword and yet lived; and it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could even speak and cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred and sixty-six.


Earlier Event: August 30
John 6:22-40, Bread from Heaven
Later Event: August 31
John 6:41-51, Bread from Heaven