John’s vision left off last week with the dragon, or beast, going off to wage war against God’s people in a last ditch effort to destroy as much as possible while time remained. Revelation 13 continues with the dragon manifesting two beasts: the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth.
The beast from the sea resembles a leopard (an animal known to lay low and wait for an opportunity to pounce on vulnerable or unsuspecting prey) with feet like a bear (an animal that walks upright like a man) and a mouth like a lion (capable of mimicking Jesus who is often referred to as the lion). For me, the sea in sea beast is significant because I generally link water with the human attribute of emotion.
Like the dragon, the sea beast has seven heads and ten horns, however, the dragon has a crown on each head and the sea beast has a crown on each horn. This suggests the sea beast is an earthly manifestation of the dragon (Satan). What stands out to me most about the sea beast is that on each of the seven heads is written a blasphemous name. I interpret this to be symbolic of fear, or patterns of evil thought. Fear can be arranged into a list of seven emotions commonly referred to as the seven deadly sins.
One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. Revelation 13: 3
When I read this I thought, “Yikes, if that was the head named pride then the beast is sporting a bruised ego!”
There are lots of interpretations about what and who this beast could possibly represent, the Antichrist being one of them, but the word Antichrist does not appear in Revelation. I lean toward the view that this beast is symbolic of those who lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate in an effort to promote personal agendas in the pursuit of power, fame, wealth, or all of the above. Think military aggression and political (popularity) or professional gain here.
The beast from the earth looks like a lamb, but sounds like a dragon. The interpretation here is pretty straight forward; this beast looks like Jesus and sounds like Satan with an objective to move everyone to the dark side. Jesus actually addressed how to discern good from evil teachings with his disciples.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistle? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7: 15-20.
I know this is a long passage, but I think the elegant simplicity of it is awesome. Diligently identify the underlying emotion (love or fear) driving the actions of another before deciding how authentic they are and whether or not to follow them. Where are they coming from? Who are they really? What’s in their heart? Would you describe their heart as a good tree or a bad tree?
The dark side is that which corrupts us. It’s relatively easy to be influenced, seduced or deceived. The lesson lecturer mentioned something about counterfeit merchandise and I immediately started taking a mental inventory of my closet to make sure I I didn’t own any knockoffs.
Until this class I had never heard of Satan’s triumvirate of evil. I had to look up the word triumvirate in a dictionary to find it means three people who share power. Satan, the beast from the sea (Antichrist), and the beast from the earth (Antichrist’s false prophet) apparently make up Satan’s triumvirate of evil which is a knockoff of the holy trinity: God (Father), Jesus, (Son), and Holy Spirit. The message here is to watch out for deception. I’m thinking false advertizing here. Commercials aren’t just on TV; they can be up close and personal.
All of this had me thinking about the difference between admiration and idolization. To idolize an Olympic athlete for the number of gold medals he received or fame she achieved is not the same thing as admiring his or her bravery and dedication. To idolize an entrepreneur’s accumulated wealth or power is not the same as admiring an ability to impact positive change or develop lifesaving technology. Idolization is harmful and demoralizing where admiration is healthy and inspirational; let’s choose to admire what graces us with good fortune.
If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed. Revelation 13:10
Literally, this verse implies the beast will cause jail or death. I find it compelling because of the play on words and symbolism. The first sentence counsels us to be cautious of captivation (by a person, place, or thing) because imprisonment (obsession, addiction, etc.) is inevitable.
The word sword, or (s)word, is often symbolic for the word of God. A sword is double edged. Numerous idioms come to mind: talking out of both sides of your mouth, two sides to every story, Devil’s advocate, etc. In my opinion, the second sentence in this verse is a message about the importance of discernment, one’s ability to separate truth from fiction, and how it will directly impact wellbeing.
Humans are complicated and fascinating creatures. We struggle with the obstacles presented by our own thoughts and actions (The Beast – Part 1) and we navigate the outside influences bombarding us every day. Revelation 12 and 13 present these internal and external challenges as horrific beasts. All of those fairytales about slaying dragons are coming back to me now.
Do you have any dragons that need slaying? Activate your shield of knowledge and your sword of truth; choose to use it.
Boot the beast.