Revelation 13: Satan and His Allies

Studies have shown that “the book of Revelation is heavily influenced by Hebrew, or Semitic, thinking.”[1] There are several indications in the book itself to support this proposition. The author of the Apocalypse is named Yohanan (YHWH is gracious), a common Hebrew name.[2] The use of the Greek language in the book “contains numerous grammatical flaws.”[3] Why? Probably because the author “thought in Hebrew as he wrote in Greek.”[4] The book is also replete with allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures.[5] Thus, this essay will explore some of the Hebrew allusions and elements in the book, more specifically in Chapter 13, the focus of our lesson study this week.

Revelation 13 commences with an image of the dragon’s feet touching the sand of the sea. Such kind of image shows his relationship with the two ensuing beasts: the sea monster and the land monster. It also shows “his dual influence on both the sea and the earth.”[6]

The connection of the dragon to these two beasts is apparent. “The dragon gave the [sea] beast his power and his throne and great authority” (Rev 13:2),[7] while the land beast “spoke like a dragon” (Rev 13:11). Indeed, you can observe the influence of the dragon on these beasts. This also suggests that these two beasts are agents of the dragon on both the sea and the earth. The mention of the earth and sea “signify the universal and worldwide scope of Satan’s end-time activities.”[8] Apparently, these beasts are not only the dragon’s allies, but they are conspiring with the dragon to force and demand people’s worship.

The image of the sea has a negative connotation in the Hebrew Scriptures because of its connection to God’s enemies. Psalms 18:16, 17 states, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.” Isaiah 27:1 writes, “In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword—his fierce, great and powerful sword—Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.” Joyce G. Baldwin declares, “to the Hebrews the sea was both dangerous and mysterious (Is. 57:20), a restless element, but not beyond the Lord’s power to tame (Ps. 107-23-29).”[9]

Accordingly, the thought pattern demonstrated in the writing of the portion of the vision where the sea monster is described (vss. 1-10), is based on the Hebrew thought. It can be divided into two sections. Verses 1-4 are in parallel thought with verse 5-10, and not necessarily a vision in chronological order.[10] The second part (vss. 5-10) amplifies and explains the first part of the vision (vss. 1-4). This is indeed an apparent Hebrew pattern of thought where parallelism of thought is in operation.[11]

Furthermore, if one will look closely between the two portions of the chapter (vss. 1-10 and vss. 11-18), there is also a parallelism of thought. This can be illustrated this way:

The shift of tenses of the major sentences in the two sections of Revelation 13 signals the shift of the time period of the first part (verses 1-10) from the second part (verses 11-18). The first part refers to a time of period history which happened within the time period of the 42 months, while the second part refers to the future.

Regarding the activities of the land beast (vs. 12), a tense shift from past tense to present tense occurs, thus, “it exercises all the authority . . .,” “it performs great signs . . .” (vs. 13), “it deceives those who dwell on earth” (vs. 14), “it causes all . . . to be marked on the right hand or the forehead” (vs. 16).[12] Hence, this must be something that would still occur in the future in contrast with the past tenses in verses 1-10. The characteristics and the activities of the sea beast had already happened in the past as hinted by its major sentences in the past tense, while the characteristics and activities of the land beast are something in the future as hinted by the major sentences in that section in the present and future tenses.

The mention of “the lamb” (arnion) evokes a distinct Hebrew imagery. The first lamb that was mentioned was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (vs. 8), while the second one resembles a lamb (vs. 11). Doukhan observes that “for the Christian Yohanan, its lamblike features recall those of the gentle Yeshua (Rev. 14:1).”[13] The sheep is considered clean meat because it is a cud-chewing animal with cloven hoofs based on Leviticus 11:1-3. Generally, “sheep do not make noise, when they are shorn or even when death is imminent. They suffer in silence.”[14] Indeed, the Lamb mentioned several times in the book of Revelation show that kind of character (Rev 5:6, 8, 12; 13:8).

Young Mediterranean boys who grew up without a father-figure learn how to be a man through the character of the sheep.

When they enter the male world at the age of puberty, they must begin to learn how to be a man. In large measure, this learning entails realizing that silent endurance of suffering, even physical punishment, from all older males is a major way of demonstrating one’s manliness. The sheep that suffers and goes to death in silence offers a good example and is easily accepted as a symbol for the honorable male.[15]

In Isaiah 53:7, it states, “like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” However, the lamb-like land beast is the opposite; he opens his mouth and speaks like a dragon (Rev 13:11).

The number of the sea beast, 666 (Rev 13:18), alludes to some places in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, the image of gold that Nebuchadnezzar had set up in the plain of Dura is based on number 6. It is 60 cubits high and 6 cubits wide (Dan 3:1, NKJV). Another reference of the number 666 to the Hebrew Scriptures is in 1 Kings 10:14. It lists as the weight of gold of King Solomon’s annual income. The context of 1 Kings 10 is “when Solomon started going away from God after having married an Egyptian princess.”[16]

It is interesting to note that the number 666 is mentioned after the sea beast was mortally wounded (Rev 13:18), and after the description of his blasphemous and persecuting activities in the time period (42 months) mentioned in verse 5. In other words, the significance of the number 666 must be something in the future and thus it calls for wisdom. Johnsson underscores that “the setting of the ‘mark,’ however—just prior to the Second Advent—shows that its full meaning is just yet future.”[17]

The lesson we can learn from this chapter is that all of the beasts mentioned in this chapter have no inherent power of their own.[18] The sea beast got his power, his throne, and great authority from the dragon. Those things are given to him. Moreover, he was given a mouth to utter blasphemies and power to make war against the saints but only for a period of time—for only 42 months. And yet the source of all his power and authority comes from the dragon who was a defeated enemy in Revelation 12.

The land beast’s source of authority and power comes from the sea beast who was mentioned twice in the second section of this chapter as mortally wounded, in spite of the fact that he can deceive and coerce. But the land beast has no inherent power of his own, as well. Accordingly, “he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast (vs. 14)”, and “he was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast . . . (vs. 15).” In other words, the readers of John were implicitly taught that God is the one who allowed these beasts to exercise power, and therefore, He is also the one who will deal with them in the end. God is still in control. Thus, each section of Revelation 13, ends with a call. The first call is for patient endurance and faithfulness, and the second call is for wisdom. Thus, this applies to us also. As we wait for the prophecy to be fulfilled, we need to be patient, faithful, and wise.

Ferdinand O. Regalado, PhD, is the lead pastor of Edinburg SDA Church in Edinburg, Texas.

Photo by Mendar Bouchali on Unsplash

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[1] Jon Paulien, The Deep Things of God: An Insider’s Guide to the Book of Revelation (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2004), 9. See also, Steven Thompson, The Apocalypse and Semitic Syntax (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series, 52; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), as cited, by Paulien, 16.

[2] Jacques B. Doukhan, Secrets of Revelation: The Apocalypse Through Hebrew Eyes (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2002), 9.

[3] Paulien, 8.

[4] Ibid., 9. Paulien notes that John being exiled and prisoner in the island of Patmos with no editorial help in writing the Apocalypse further explains why the Greek grammar in the book is not that good. Paulien, 9-10.

[5] See Jon Paulien, “Interpreting Revelation’s Symbolism,” in Symposium on Revelation: Introductory and Exegetical Studies Book 1 (Daniel and Revelation Committee Series Vol. 6; Edited by Frank B. Holbrook; Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1992), 73-97.

[6] Doukhan, 112.

[7] All scriptural quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise stated.

[8] Ranko Stefanovic, Revelation of Jesus Christ: Commentary on the Book of Revelation (2nd ed.; Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2009), 422.

[9] Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel: And Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries 21; Edited by D. J. Wiseman; Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), 138.

[10] William G. Johnsson, “The Saints’ End-Time Victory Over the Forces of Evil,” in Symposium on Revelation: Exegetical and General Studies Book 2 (Daniel and Revelation Committee Series Vol. 7; Edited by Frank B. Holbrook; Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1992), 24.

[11] William H. Shea, “Time Prophecies of Daniel 12 and Revelation 12-13,” in Symposium on Revelation: Introductory and Exegetical Studies Book 1 (Daniel and Revelation Committee Series Vol. 6; Edited by Frank B. Holbrook; Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1992), 354, writes, “One third of the OT is written is poetry; all Hebrew poetry exercises parallelism of thought. One cannot have the Hebrew poetry without it. It also spills over into biblical prose, both in the OT and in the NT. Examples of this are too numerous to mention. So it is not unexpected to find that same principle operating here.”

[12] The translations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

[13] Doukhan, 119.

[14] John J. Pilch, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1999), 136.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Stefanovic, 427. So, according to Stefanovic, “666 as the number of the beast might point to the Christian church as the system that was once faithful to God and which eventually turns away from God and becomes the enemy of God’s people as the time of the end” (427).

[17] Johnsson, 30. For the view that 666 is equated with vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar/Representative of the Son of God), see Edwin de Kock, The Truth About 666 and the Story of the Great Apostasy, vol. 1 (2nd rev. ed.; Edinburg, TX: The author, 2013); Edwin de Kock, The Truth About 666 and the Story of the Great Apostasy, vol. 2 (2nd rev. ed; Edinburg, TX: The author, 2013); Edwin de Kock, The Truth About 666 and the Story of the Great Apostasy, vol. 3 (2nd rev. ed; Edinburg, TX: The author, 2013).

[18] Johnsson, 24.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9444

Is it not logical that if the author wrote in Greek, not his natural language, that the primary audience of the letter is Greek, in thought if not in location.

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Revelation is about the victory of the Lamb. The narration depends largely upon prior Hebrew text both from the canon and extra canonical sources. The details escape the nominal reader. But the larger picture is very clear—Having lost his case with Christ, Lucifer directs his ire against those that have put their faith in the Cross and the Grace it provides. The big question is how strong is that faith. History records the faith and courage of past generations.How will the final generation fare? may we all be Huss.

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The number of the sea beast, 666 (Rev 13:18), alludes to some places in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, the image of gold that Nebuchadnezzar had set up in the plain of Dura is based on number 6. It is 60 cubits high and 6 cubits wide (Dan 3:1, NKJV). Another reference of the number 666 to the Hebrew Scriptures is in 1 Kings 10:14. It lists as the weight of gold of King Solomon’s annual income. The context of 1 Kings 10 is “when Solomon started going away from God after having married an Egyptian princess.”[16]

It is interesting to note that the number 666 is mentioned after the sea beast was mortally wounded (Rev 13:18), and after the description of his blasphemous and persecuting activities in the time period (42 months) mentioned in verse 5. In other words, the significance of the number 666 must be something in the future and thus it calls for wisdom. Johnsson underscores that “the setting of the ‘mark,’ however—just prior to the Second Advent—shows that its full meaning is just yet future.”[17]

Revelation 13:18 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 man. Its number is six hundred and sixty-six.

The text tells us the “mark of the beast” is:

  1. The name of the beast or, the number of its name

  2. Which is the number of a man

  3. The number needs “wisdom” to be “calculated”

  4. The number is six-hundred sixty six

Any interpretation/meaning that we get from the above verse must take into consideration, the above facts

Additionally, this number was not represented as a figure but as letters of the alphabet or written in full. In other words, the “number of the beast” was not expressed as “666” ( Arabic numerals would not be invented for another five hundred years) but by the phrase hexakosioi hexekonta hex or the numerical values of the Greek letters themselves, chi (600), xi (60), and stigma (6). In Hebrew and Greek (and a few letters of Latin), the letters of the alphabet doubled as numerals.

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Studies have shown that “the book of Revelation is heavily influenced by Hebrew, or Semitic, thinking.”

I have a study and it isn’t very difficult (no phd is required). The first paragraph of the book of Revelation says it was influenced (given) by God Himself to Jesus Christ.

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.”

There. That was easy.

An interesting detail that I think hasn’t been mentioned:

If we add up the individual values of the first 6 Roman numerals we get 666.

We read the Bible as if it were written to/for us. All the time and effort we put into trying to match numbers and history tells us nothing we don’t already know from history. Our church was built on the ashes of trying to predict a detailed picture of the future have failed, and we qualify as “Exhibit A”.

Maybe the detailed prophecies were not predictions but rather histories.

And the year day “principle” is a game we play but the Bible’s authors don’t.

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Some thoughts on the two beasts of Rev 13 and specifically an alternative understanding of the beast rising out of the earth:

A Christian commentator I read regularly believes that the beast from the earth represents the world financial system, specifically those behind the scenes who control our banking system. Of course there are many theories about secretive, powerful groups or families that influence central bankers and thus world governments. Hence the name ‘Mystery Babylon’.

The earth, the origin of this beast, is the source of virtually all of our material wealth - minerals, fossil fuels, lumber, food production, even precious metals that have down through history been refined into money (coinage) itself. The modern economic and banking system that has come into existence in the last few centuries has left us in a kind of bondage to this beast because we must accept and adjust to those setting interest rates and those in a position to influence flows of currency.

Much like the common view of the beast from the sea being concerned with false religion, this view of the beast of the earth attempting to control financial life is that it is very powerful, multinational and worldwide in scope.
A quote attributed to Mayer Amschel Rothschild, the founder of that family’s banking dynasty reads, ‘Give me control of a nation’s money supply and I care not who makes its laws.’

It’s interesting that Nathan Mayer von Rothschild founded the family banking operation in England in 1798.


Also in this view, the beast from the earth has a direct connection to the beast from the sea. In 1832 the Rothschild bank lent the Papacy some £400,000 (the equivalent of over £36 million today) and James Mayer de Rothschild of France became the official Papal banker.


Some believe the RCC is the richest organization on earth, if so the two beasts have benefitted by working together.

There are economic/financial overtones to several statements in Revelation. The book speaks of the fall of the Great Harlot, Babylon the Great, who is symbolized as a woman characterized by a curious mixture of sexual immorality, persecution of the saints and luxurious living. She made merchants of the earth rich and they will weep and mourn over her.

Revelation also speaks of a coming prohibition of buying and selling regarding certain people. Some Adventists have long believed that a microchip planted in the back of the hand or forehead will one day become mandatory for participation in the economy.

Other parts of the Bible have things to say about our attitude toward money. It’s interesting that at both the beginning and end of Christ’s ministry He rather forcefully cleared the temple of the money changers. ‘Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ (John 2:16) and ‘’It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it ‘a den of thieves.’’ (Luke 20:46).
Jesus didn’t caution much against false religion per se but warned against making money one’s god (which in reality is a form of false religion). ‘No one can serve two masters.’ ‘You cannot serve God and money.’ (Matt 6:24). He warned against storing up treasure on earth rather than in heaven because ‘where your treasure is, there will be your heart also’ (Matt 6:21). And of course Paul stated that the love of money is the root of all evil (1Tim 6:10).

As stated in the article, the only Biblical mention of the number 666 outside of Revelation is in 1Kings 10:14 which refers to the vast amount of gold in King Solomon’s annual income. He ‘exceeded all the kings of the earth in terms of riches and wisdom’ yet fell away from God. Surely a cautionary tale for us all.

Those are valid warnings, Dave.

However, the only entity ever called a harlot in the Scriptures is unfaithful Israel, having violated her covenant with YHWH. The harlot riding the beast in Revelation would have been Israel supported by the Roman empire in its pressure on and persecution of the tiny, early Christian movement. This is also corroborated by the references to the synagogue that is the stronghold of Satan. (Has been very easy throughout history for anti Semites to rip this out of context to persecute Jews.)The beast ends up turning on the harlot and devouring her…just what Rome did to Judea and Jerusalem in AD 66-70, destroying the temple and the city.

I’m wondering if this would have been more in line with the intention of the author, and his admonitions to the seven churches to endure under such pressure. Interesting to see how we would apply this today.

Thanks…

Frank

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Frank, a couple of thoughts:
I’m not sure about your statement that only unfaithful OT Israel was referred to as a harlot. Isaiah 23 is an oracle concerning Tyre and in verses 15 to 17 that city is alluded to as a harlot. Similarly for Nineveh in Nahum 3:4. That, of course, does not negate the interpretation you put forward.

I think it’s very difficult to get a reading on the chronology of events in the book of Revelation. IIRC, some maintain it must have been written before 70AD because in chapter 11 John is instructed to measure the temple in Jerusalem.
Most, however, seem to subscribe to a later writing (~95AD) and Babylon’s fall is to occur much later in history, after the bowls of wrath which appear to be worldwide in scope.

I think the word of God is described as ‘living’ for several reasons. Of course, the gospel, as recorded in Paul’s letters, brings new creation life.
But also, I believe God had the record written and compiled to always be ‘alive’, i.e., relevant and applicable, whatever the time in which the reader lives.
The problem is when we don’t recognize that and insist that the application of ideas from the book relevant to the world years ago cannot be updated. We erroneously think ‘present truth’ is frozen and there is no more ‘progressive revelation’. I don’t think that’s how God works.

Revelation tells us it is a book of symbols and I think one reason is to give the Holy Spirit latitude to show us how to interpret them in ways applicable to our times and circumstances. So, I’m sure its first group of pertinent messages were to its original audience of the seven churches of Asia Minor.

Of course, there have been many interpretations of these symbols down through history. I tried to relate one alternative, modern theory about the identity of the beast from the earth. I think it appealed to me because of other allusions to things financial in the book. It strikes me that in our age money has become the god. Acquiring wealth (and the power it can bring) becomes the overriding purpose of life, even an obsession.
As Jesus warned, it has become a sort of insidious, covert, dangerous false religion. It is anti-Christian in a couple of senses. It goes against His teachings and also it has replaced Him at the centre of life.

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