Let the Word Speak!

Vision 3: The Roots and Role of Roman Power

Opening scene in heaven (11:19)

19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: …

Hebrew myth has it that the Ark of the Covenant was hidden away during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., and that it would appear again at the End Time when God established his temple on earth. This is similar to the myth covered earlier that Jeremiah had taken manna from the Holy of Holies just before the destruction of the temple and hidden it in the rocks of Mt. Sinai, which was mentioned in Revelation 2:17 in the letter to Pergamum. The significance of the Ark was that it was the seat of God, never seen by any worshippers but the High Priest, and its reappearance was a promise that the End Time was near, so this image is a visual affirmation of God’s promise.

… and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

These signs of power take place on earth, linking the sign in heaven to God’s presence and work on earth in the lives of his people, even as they go through the tribulations caused by the Roman empire that follow.

Woman, dragon, and child (12:1 – 12:6)

1 And there appeared a great wonder [sign, omen, portent] in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

The purpose of this portent was to tell of God’s power, as described in references to signs and wonders in Matthew 24:24, John 4:48, and Acts 2:22 and 5:12.

The sun, the moon, and twelve stars show that all the heavens aligned in support of this woman. The Greek indicates this is a specific woman, and the description seems to identify her to the first century Christians, but we probably have lost the story that would identify her. There are similar descriptions of the Asia Minor pagan goddess Isis and others, especially the part where these goddesses are crowned with the twelve signs of the zodiac. This woman’s crown, made of stars, may be a message from John that the Asia Minor goddesses are false and God’s love for the faithful is true, or he may have borrowed easily understood symbols to describe the glory of this woman. Still, it is difficult to accept a pagan reference to a symbol of God’s people, given John’s stringent condemnation of false gods.

We can rule out that this woman is Mary the mother of Jesus, because verse 17 identifies her offspring as those who “keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.” So, this woman must represent the Church, faithful in the Old Covenant, and out of which came the Messiah. Later, this woman will represent the Church, faithful in the New Covenant as well, since the first century Christians placed great importance on the continuity from the Jewish faith to the Christian faith.

She was pregnant and was crying in agony of giving birth. The metaphor of childbirth was common, as in John 16:21 and Galatians 4:19, indicating struggle and pain before the wonderful event occurs. Even more direct is Isaiah 26:17-18, where the faithful followers of God are portrayed as being in labor, waiting for the “birth” of God’s salvation.

3 And there appeared another wonder [portent] in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns [diadems] upon his heads.

A dragon with many heads is a common villain in writings up to that time. Homer describes a dragon with three heads that ate poisonous herbs. Egyptian mythology included Typhon, a dragon that persecuted the god Osiris. In Isaiah 51:9, the enemy of God is Rahab, the dragon. In Isaiah 27:1, the Lord will punish Leviathan, the crooked serpent. In Psalms 74:13-14, God will break the heads of Leviathan the dragon. In a related fashion, Ezekiel 29:3 identifies Egypt as a dragon, continuing the references to Egypt and the ten plagues of Moses.

The crowns here were diadems, named for a blue band trimmed in white that Persian kings attached at the bottom of tiaras. This was a claim by the dragon to kingship.

4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: …

In Daniel 8:8-10, an evil beast is identified as a goat with a mighty horn that was so powerful that it cast down stars from heaven. We do not know if these fallen stars are representative of anything other than the Daniel passage, but some speculated that these are the angels that fell with Satan, while others identify the fallen stars as martyrs who died for Christ. More likely, the dragon is flexing his muscles, demonstrating his power. However, the indication of a third of the stars calls to mind the limitation of the earlier plagues to a third, so even though the dragon is powerful enough to knock stars from the sky, the dragon’s power is limited by God.

… and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

The threat to the woman’s baby has parallel both in Pharoah’s persecution of the Hebrew male babies in Exodus 1:15-22 and in Herod’s killing of male babies in Bethlehem in Matthew 2:16.

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

While this is a clear parallel to the birth of Jesus, it also has a broader reference to all Christians. In Revelation 2:27, the promise to the church at Thyatira was that the overcoming believer would “rule with a rod of iron,” a Messianic prophesy fromPsalm 2:9. Notice that the rule covers all the earth, not just the Jewish nation, emphasizing the inclusion of Asian Christians and contradicting the condemnation of Jesus on the cross as “King of the Jews.”

Taking the child up to heaven is similar to Christ’s ascension into heaven, with the verb indicating that God’s power quickly foiled the dragon’s plan.

6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

The flight of the woman is similar to the exodus of the Israelites into the wilderness from Egypt, Elijah’s flight from Queen Jezebel in I Kings 17:2, and Matthew 2:13, as Mary and Joseph take baby Jesus and flee to Egypt when told to do so in a vision. In these events in the history of God’s work with his people, the wilderness represented how the people in their weakness would be fed and sustained by God’s strength. This flight had a destination prepared by God, both for the woman’s care but for fellowship with God. See Colossians 3:3, where Paul teaches that our lives are hidden with Christ in God. The 1,260 days indicates the same limit on the dragon’s power as seen in earlier references.

Dragon thrown down (12:7 – 12:12)

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil [the “Slanderer”], and Satan [the “Deceiver”], which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Here’s a challenge to our idea of heavenly perfection! If heaven is the perfect home of the all-powerful God, how could there be war there? To John, this heaven will pass away and be replaced by the perfect heaven. John’s heaven reflects God’s insistence on allowing humanity to choose the truth forces God to allow discord and war in heaven – for now…

This scene is linked to the previous two, so the birth of the woman’s son and the protection of both the son and the woman must have precipitated an attack by the dragon on heaven. This also puts into context that our own struggle with sin is part of a much greater struggle. This attack was a total failure for the dragon, as he was defeated by the army led by archangel Michael, identified in Daniel 12:1 as the protector of God’s people. Because of this insurrection and defeat, he even lost his access to heaven. The verb used for “cast out” (better translated “thrown down”) indicates that Satan is thrown out permanently, and the repetition of “thrown down” three times indicates it is divine and complete.

This concept of Satan’s fall from heaven runs against most of our modern conceptions of heaven, but it was common thought for the first century Christians. In the Old Testament, Satan acts as a prosecuting attorney before God the Judge. Some of the basis of this belief is seen in Job 1:6, which reports Satan joining in at God’s regular “staff meeting” in heaven, and Zechariah 3:1, where Satan stands before God to accuse the high priest Joshua.

By the New Testament, Satan is no longer the accuser, but the Devil, the deceiver. The Roman court system made great use of the paid informant, or delator, as one who would accuse people. Those making a living as an information were notorious for fabricating stories to continue their livelihood.

The idea of Satan falling from heaven is reminiscent of Jesus’ response to the work of the seventy, where in Luke 10:18, he said he saw Satan fall from heaven as lightning. Colossians 2:15 says that Jesus defeated the principalities in his death on the cross. Jesus talked about how his death would cast out the prince of this world in John 12:31-32. Jesus’s death and resurrection was more than just our path to salvation, it also conquered Satan.

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ [Messiah]: …

This loud voice is not identified as an angel, as the previous ones were, but the message here is of clear victory, just like the other loud voices in heaven presented key signs in God’s plan.

… for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

This label of Satan as accuser is like the role portrayed in the first two chapters of Job. Another form of the word for “accuser” is used in John 8:10 when Jesus asks the woman caught in adultery and brought to him to be stoned where her accusers were. This word is also used in Acts 23:30-35, where it is used in court to describe the Jews that tried to ambush Paul and were trying to get the Romans to execute him as a traitor.

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. [”even in the face of death”]

The word for “overcame” is the same word Jesus used of himself in John 16:33, “I have overcome the world.” This overcoming was made possible by Christ’s salvation combined with the acceptance and application of that salvation by the martyrs. This passage parallels Jesus’ teaching in Mark 8:35, “whoever will save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake shall save it.”

12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell [”encamp”] in them. Woe to the [permanent] inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

In this verse, we have a clear distinction between those in heaven, who are described as “camping” in heaven to show them the same as the sojourners on earth, and the permanent residents who have chosen earth.

The temporary nature of Satan’s power leads to the desperate actions of the dragon on earth. While the Church on earth can take confidence that God has already defeated Satan, but we must be careful because in God’s plan, Satan has not yet been totally subdued and removed.

The persecution (12:13 – 12:17)

13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

The woman, representing the true church on earth, now faces persecution from the desperate dragon. This message would have been especially meaningful to those of the early Christians who remembered the persecution started by Nero in A.D. 64.

14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

This is not the same as the eagle who proclaimed the three woes. The metaphor of an eagle’s wings for God’s protection occurs in Exodus 19:4, in Deuteronomy 32:11-12, and in Isaiah 40:31: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Here we don’t see a second 1,260 days, we instead are catching up with the story where we left it in verse 6.

15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

The metaphor of a river for evil and misfortune is seen in Psalm 32:6, Psalm 124:4, and Isaiah 43:2, and in the parable of Jesus about the two men building their houses on either rock or sand in Luke 7:46-49. In the first century, the Lycus river went underground near Colossae, but the real point is God’s protection and intervention in any number of wonderful ways.

17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

These are the two actions that always provoke Satan to anger, and are just those things that true believers, the “woman’s children,” do.

The first beast (13:1 – 13:10)

1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: …

There are discrepancies to how the first part of this verse is translated. The KJV writes it is John who stands on the beach, but most modern translators believe it is the dragon, so the better paraphrase would be, “On his way to wage war on the believers, the dragon stopped on the seashore.”

This passage clearly references Daniel chapter 7, where four beasts, with the first three like a lion, a bear, and a leopard, represented a vast empire that oppressed the faithful. This beast is specifically identified later, in Revelation 17:7-13, as the Roman empire, with the seven heads representing the seven hills on which Rome was built. The blasphemous names further identify the beast as the Roman empire, as the Emperors identified themselves as gods. The ten horns represent the ten Roman emperors since the first emperor, Augustus: Tiberius (14-37), Caligula (37-41), Claudius (41-54), Nero (55-68), Galba (68-69), Otho (69), Vitellius (69), Vespasian (69-79), Titus (79-81), and Domitian (81-96). The three after Nero ruled briefly in a period of massive chaos, which lasted eighteen months until Vespasian became emperor.

In Daniel, the three animals listed are considered to be the Babylonian, Median, and Persian empires, with the fourth empire, that of Alexander the Great, eclipsing the previous three. Similarly, the Roman empire eclipsed the glory of these four previous empires. A horn always represented power, so ten horns represented a “fullness” of power. The symbolic nature of this description is obvious when you try to imagine which of the seven heads had which of the ten horns!

The condemnation of the Roman empire in Revelation seems to conflict with the teachings of Jesus and the letters of Paul instructing Christians to respect governmental authority — until you put into the context of a ruler that has decreed himself to be a god. When the government obstructs religion, the government must be opposed, as in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel chapter 3 and the story of Daniel in the lion’s den in Daniel chapter 6.

Before we so quickly identify this first beast as the Roman empire, we should consider the arguments for interpreting this beast also as the Antichrist. 1 John 2:18 warns that the Antichrist will come, and that there are many antichrists already around.2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 warns of the “lawless one” who will set himself up in the Temple and proclaim himself to be God.

The person of the Antichrist has been the subject of much speculation over the centuries. This person represents the opposite of Christ, and is the incarnation of the Devil and of evil. That idea has deep roots, in both the Jewish faith in the person of Belial (1 Samuel 2:12, 1 Kings 21:10, and 2 Chronicles 13:7) and in pagan religions in the middle East. The Israelites had encountered an “antichrist” in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria, who captures Palestine in 168 B.C. and erected an altar to Zeus in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple. He tried over the 3 1/2 years(!) of his domination of Jerusalem to eradicate Judaism, but was driven out of Palestine by the Maccabees. The entire Roman Empire had encountered an “antichrist” in the person of Nero, who carried out great atrocities against his family, the nobility, commoners, and particularly the Christians.

… and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

The beast, which I do believe represents the Roman empire, is the servant and tool of the dragon, Satan. John draws by the picture of the woman, dragon, and beast the warning to the first century Christians that the Roman empire’s persecution of them is based in Satan’s hate for God’s followers.

3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: …

This image had two parallel meanings for the first century Christian. There is an obvious parallel between this beast and the Lamb that was slain, so Satan is claiming equality to God by copying God’s work.

The second interpretation involves Nero’s life story. When it was obvious that Nero’s rule was over, he considered fleeing to the Parthians, where he was popular, but instead he killed himself with a sword stroke to the head. Historians tell us of three instances where Nero was widely reported to have come back from the dead, and the Parthians in those instances were ready to proclaim him as their leader and attack Rome. The latest of these “sightings” happened in 88 A.D., just a few years before Revelation was written. Since Nero had so viciously persecuted Christians, this wounded head underscored the evil intent of this beast towards Christians.

There is another consideration in the description of this wounded head that is not seen if the passage is read too quickly. This one head received a fatal wound, but while the wound had healed, it does not say that the head was restored to full usefulness. The point is that this beast cannot be killed through earthly measures, for normally fatal wounds are irrelevant to the beast. The effect on the world would be the opinion that the power of this beast cannot be resisted.

… and all the world wondered after [was amazed by] the beast.
4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

In worshipping the beast, the people were worshipping the dragon, a parallel to the Son and the Father. The people’s saying is a parody of praise to God given in Exodus 15:11, Psalm 35:10, and Psalm 113:5, except that God’s power is in love, while the dragon’s power is in war. This worship had a concrete parallel in the first century in the world-wide worship of the emperor, which was especially powerful in Asia Minor.

As a side comment, the Jews had received special dispensation from Julius Caesar, and later from Augustus, that they could pray for the Emperor in their places of worship, rather than being required to offer sacrifices in the temples to the Emperor. Because the Christians were decreed under Nero to be a separate, and illegal, religion, the Christians received persecution that the Jews did not.

5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great [haughty] things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.

The blasphemies continued what were the names on the seven heads, and directly refers to the little horn on the beast that uttered blasphemies in Daniel 7:25. The last part of verse six is often translated incorrectly in the same manner as the KJV has it above. What the original Greek says is that the beast blasphemes God’s dwelling place (”tabernacle”), which is where those who are obedient to God dwell. The point is that God is not far away in heaven, but right there with the believers.

7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from [before] the foundation of the world.

The order of these prepositional phrases is unclear in the Greek. The phrase “before the foundation of the world” can either be associated with “names are not been written” or with “the Lamb that was slain.” Both of these interpretations have the sense of God preparing our salvation before the start of time. The first one, the most common translation, matches Revelation 17:8 and Ephesians 1:4. The alternate interpretation matches 1 Peter 1:19-20.

The persecution of the faithful continues to parallel the story in Daniel 7, along with the dominance by this beast of the entire known world.

9 If any man have an ear, let him hear.
10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

The KJV makes this passage sound like “an eye for an eye”, but many modern translations interpret the verb usage very differently, as a caution for believers. They translate the passage to read something like, “if you are to be taken captive, you will be taken captive, and those who kill with the sword, will themselves be killed with the sword, so you believers must endure in your faith.”

John requests special attention from his audience, using the same method he did at the end of the letters to the seven churches, for this saying calls believers to be faithful unto death. He requires of Christians not to fight persecution with human strength but with Godly submission, quoting Jeremiah 15:2. Likewise, human violence is not an appropriate defense of Christianity; interpreted as the KJV words it, this passage sounds like what Jesus told Peter in Matthew 26:52, saying those who draw the sword will die by the sword. This also is an assurance of God’s ultimate power, assuring that those who execute the faithful will answer to God for their actions. The strength for Christians, then, is in endurance and faithfulness.

The second beast (13:11-13:18)

11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.

Here is the completion of Satan’s trinity. This second beast has more limited power than the first, because this one comes out of the earth and only has two horns. It has the comely appearance of a lamb, but is truly as evil as a dragon. Parallel this image to Jesus’ teaching of false prophets as wolves in lambs clothing in Matthew 7:15, and indeed, this second beast is later identified as the false prophet (Revelation 16:13). There is also a parallel in the two horns with the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11.

12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

This second beast receives power from the first beast, whose power comes from the dragon. Given that the first beast is the Roman empire, the second beast is most reasonably interpreted as the provincial governments set up by Rome to enforce Rome’s policies and emperor worship, as was the case in Pergamum. Others have interpreted this beast as the Pope and the Roman Catholic church(!), although this interpretation is a huge stretch for this imagery, and makes no sense in the historical context of the state of the church in Rome or Asia Minor in the first century.

13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; …

Elijah called down fire down from heaven, as we discussed when we covered the two witnesses after the sixth trumpet, so we see the second beast imitating what God had done through his servants. Bold miracles like fire from heaven would cause people to be awed, but Jesus warned in his apocalyptic message in Mark 13:22 that false prophets would deceive people with signs and wonders. We do have record of noise machines owned by the Emperors that would make sounds of thunder and flashes of fire, so the first century Christians would be familiar with this trickery and deception.

… saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
15 And he had power to give life [breath] unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

The phrase “the image of the beast” occurs through the rest of Revelation (also in 14:9, 14:11, 15:2, 16:2, 19:20, 20:4) and each time it means that idol which unfaithful people worshipped. This image would have reminded the first century Christians of the images of the emperor that were in all the regional government centers across the Roman empire. The word for “life” is much better translated as “breath,” and the Greek word used is pneuma, meaning breath or wind. It is the same phrase used in 11:11 as God breathes life back into the two martyred witnesses — but it can also mean ventriloquism. There was a common illusion used in that period where a tube (actually a crane’s neck) ran from the mouth of a statue down to a hidden spot where a person spoke words that people perceived as coming from the statue.

16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark [better translated “to mark themselves”] in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

The Greek wording shows that the people agreed to take on the mark, or even that they marked themselves. This again mimics the mark that God gave to his elect after the sixth seal to protect them, with the same connotation that these people were the servants or slaves of the beast. The position of the mark, on the right hand, indicates that the mark was in plain view, that the people carried a visible testimony of their allegiance to the Beast. The same significance is seen of the mark on the forehead, with the repetition of the two locations of the mark for emphasis. This marking was a parody of the Jewish custom of when praying, wearing phylacteries on their left arm and forehead, containers that had verses from the Old Testament.

The danger in this mark is the practical nature of the mark — the purpose of the mark is to allow commerce, even though it is a mark of the beast. Compare this compromise of beliefs to the situation in the Laodicean church in Revelation chapter 3, where the church was so interested in economics that it had lost any effectiveness of its witness.

Also note the stark contrast between taking either the mark of the beast or the mark of God’s elect. In our lives, and in the lives of the Asia Minor churches in chapters 2 and 3, the choices didn’t appear so clear! It was easy to bend a little, to compromise, in order to get along more successfully. The imagery of visible marks challenges Christians then and now to consider that what may seem like minor decisions to us are really visible and significant choices to follow God or follow Satan.

18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

John uses this same reference to “wisdom” in Revelation 17:9, where he explains that the seven heads of the first beast are the “seven hills on which the harlot sitteth,” which both the early Christians and we easily identify as Rome. John must have meant as obvious a reference for “666” as for the seven hills, except that we have lost that reference. In fact, Christian scholars as early as the second century were in the dark as to what was meant by “666.”

It was apparently common at that time to identify a person by the number of their name, as in a wall in Pompeii on which someone had written “I love her whose number is 545.” We’re not sure how they intended to create numbers from names, but we can devise ways that using the letters of a name as roman numerals can give us 666, and people have used that tactic to get “666” out of the Hebrew version of the name “Nero Caesar,” although we don’t see other references to Hebrew in Revelation, because the dominant languages for Christians were Aramaic and Latin. Also, this same roman numeral trick works for the Latin phrase Vicarius Filii Dei, one of the titles for the Pope. By using a numeric code for the letters in “Hitler,” where A=100, B=101, etc., the letters for Hitler add up to 666. Another approach is based on some old manuscripts that list the number as “616,” which is the sum of the letters for the Latin word “Nero.”

There is another explanation that appears to make better sense. The Greek name of Jesus can be calculated into the number “888,” where each digit is one greater than the perfect number “7.” The opposite of this would be the number “666,” with digits that represent something notably imperfect. Repeating the imperfect number emphasizes the imperfection, and repeating it three times underscores the false trinity of the dragon and the two beasts.

In my opinion, the first beast is the Roman empire, the second beast are the regional satellite governments from Rome, and the “666” number is a numerological emphasis on the evil parody of the holy trinity.

Interpretation

To those who seek a literal, modern-day interpretation for Revelation, the person of the Antichrist is a dominating question. Both Lindsey and Van Kampen believe that the Antichrist will be the leader of the world-wide empire that will firmly oppress Christianity, and that this person will arise out of Roman / Germanic heritage. Van Kampen goes so far as to require this person to have died of a head wound and come back to life, and to be immediately recognizable to the world population upon his resurrection, therefore Hitler must be the Antichrist. Lindsey believes the second beast, the prophet of the Antichrist, will be a Jewish person, based on an interpretation of the beast coming out of “the land.”

However, this literal interpretation of a single “antichrist” minimizes the suffering through the centuries that Christians have experienced under the antichrists of the past. Even John interpreted the concept of the antichrist as applying to many people, for in 1 John 2:18, he warns that “even now many antichrists have come.”

Applicability for Today

Bruce Metzger, in the commentary Breaking the Code makes the following observation about the underlying meaning behind this chapter:

The profound religious insight that lies behind these kaleidoscopic pictures in chapter 13 is that men and women are so constituted as to worship some absolute power, and if they do not worship the true and real Power behind the universe, they will construct a god for themselves and give allegiance to that. In the last analysis, it is always a choice between the power that operates through inflicting suffering, that is, the power of the beast, and the power that operates through accepting suffering, namely, the power of the Lamb.

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