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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

September 24, 2014

Revelations 13:5-18

  1. Recalling from last week, we know now that the beast was the Roman Empire. Referring back to Daniel 7 we know that the fourth beast is the nation that had ten kings. Then after the tenth king will come four kings at once, but only one king will reign. We know from history this happened in the time of 68-69BC when civil war that broke out within the Roman Empire for over one year after the death of Emperor Nero (representing the wounded head is the death of Emperor Nero). Four emperors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, all seized the throne in less than one year. Two of 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 after what many thought would be the end of the empire. This is why John states that the beast had a wounded head that looked fatal but was not. It is interesting to note that Vespasian was the general who led the attack on Jerusalem in 66 AD on behalf of Rome. History tells us that after Vespasian became ruler he made sure nearly one third of all the coins minted featured his likeness. He also encouraged writers of the day to further his legacy by writing that he had supernatural powers. There are all sorts of supernatural stories surrounding Vespasian. He encouraged these stories because it caused many to fear him and thus submit to his rule. Vespasian was known to reward those who promoted his propaganda and harm those who would challenge him.

  2. Verses 5-8. The Roman Empire had no respect for God or his people. The Roman Empire destroys Jerusalem in 70 AD and desecrated the temple. The gold from the temple actually financed the building of the great Roman Coliseum. The Roman armies kill thousands upon thousands of people. Josephus the ancient Jewish historian puts this number of casualties at 1 million. After the reign of Vespasian the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) expanded the empire to its furthest points over the earth. The Roman Empire was the sole world power especially during the first and second centuries. Because of this great authority and rule, the world worships and pays homage to the Roman Empire as sent from the gods. Everyone gives their allegiance to the Roman emperors (Imperial cult). The only ones who are not worshiping the emperors and giving their allegiance to the Roman Empire are those whose names are “in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (13:8).

  3. Verses 9-10. During this time of war things are going to go from bad to worse. The believers are warned to be prepared for tough times. “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” Jesus uses the same language to call people to listen to the important message he was about to teach. The same is true here in Revelation concerning this important message. “If anyone is to be taken captive, into captivity he goes; if anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword must he be killed.” In summary, this war that the beast will make against the saints is going to be very bad. You are going to be captured or killed. Therefore, Christ calls for faithful endurance. “This calls for patient endurance of the saints.” Brace yourselves for the impact of the persecution and suffering that will come from the Roman Empire. The world is standing for the beast, worshiping the beast, and honoring the beast. The Christians will not do this and suffering will come from this.

  4. Verses 11-12. After seeing this terrifying beast rising out of the sea that blasphemes God and makes war on the Christians, we see the rising of another beast. This second beast rises out of the earth. The beast had two horns like a lamb but it spoke like a dragon. This is an interesting beast because it is trying to look like the lamb but it is not the lamb. The words the beast speaks reveals he is like the dragon and from the dragon. Though trying to look like the lamb, the beast is not like the lamb or from the lamb. This beast seems to have a religious role. This religious role is implied by it trying to mimic to the true lamb of God. Verse 12 reveals this religious role even further. The beast carries all the authority of the first beast. This point is emphasized by the authority being exercised in the presence of the first beast. Notice the role of this second beast. It compels the earth and its inhabitants to worship the first beast. In the first ten verses of Revelation 13 we saw the first beast representing the Roman Empire, its military might, political power, and its emperors who speak blasphemies against God and God’s people. This second beast represents a religious aspect. Vespasian completed the Temple of Apollo which featured many statues of Roman gods with the statue of Apollo being the most prominent. All under Roman authority were charged to worship these false gods.

  5. Verses 13-15. By the end of the first century, every city of the seven churches had temples dedicated to the deity of Caesar. We also know that there was a priesthood of the imperial cult. Emperor Domitian even chose to be called “Lord our God.” All of the emperors allowed for wonderful stories to be made up about them having supernatural powers and supernatural events occurring because of them. These rumors and legends were considered great signs. Satan used these false signs to deceive the people into thinking the emperors were divine and should be worshipped. If a meteor fell (we call it a shooting star), it was attributed to the emperor. If lighting hit something it was attributed to the emperor. These legends fueled the emperor worship and caused the people to worship the beast even more. Those who do not worship the image of the beast are going to be persecuted and killed. This statement has a reference to Daniel 3 when Nebuchadnezzar made a great image and demanded all to worship the image or be cast into the fiery furnace. Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the image and were cast into the fire, but God protected them from harm. Scholars have learned that there was the establishment of the provincial cult of Domitian in Ephesus with a colossal statue.

  6. Verses 16-17. The mark is a figurative mark. The mark is a symbol of ownership. The mark of the beast is going to be contrasted with the mark the Christians receive in chapter 14. We have seen earlier that the servants of God were marked with the seal of God. These are symbols of ownership. The servants of God are marked showing that they belong to the Lamb. The inhabitants of the world are marked to show they belong to the beast. Though not literal marks, the meaning of the markings has a historical reference. There was going to be a time when those who did not submit to the emperor worship and emperor sacrifices would not be allowed to participate in normal marketplace activities. They would not be able to buy food at the marketplace or sell the produce of their land to make money to provide for themselves. According to George Beale in his book “The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text,” Beale highlights that under later persecutions under Emperor Diocletian and Emperor Decius, certificates were issued to those loyal to the emperor and participating in the required ritual of the imperial religion (715). “There were, therefore, few facets of society from which Christians could escape pressures to idolatry. Indeed, the state was inextricably linked to the religious, economic, and social facets of culture” (717).

  7. Verse 18. Many have tried to use the number 666 to point to any number of people or religions throughout the ages. Some have even try to say this number points to our current president. In the past it was Hitler or some world leader. The truth of the matter is that you could probably make that number anybody. I am of the belief that the number is not meant to point to a particular person as it is pointing to the system of man. The three 6s are three numbers that represent imperfect, and incomplete. The number 7 represents perfect and holy while the number 6 represents sin or to falls short. The three 6s are representing the fact that man and Satan falls short over and over again. In order to flourish in Roman society one had to take the number of the beast meaning he had to subscribe to the system of imperial worship. Many believers were killed or died because they refused to bow to the emperor. This is why John sees a scene of victory in the next chapter with those who have the mark of the father on their heads versus the mark of the beast on the heads of those who bow to the roman gods.

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