The Messianic Judgments, 6:1-16:21
3. The battle with the beasts, 11:19-15:4
iv] The beast from the seaSynopsis
In his vision, John reveals how the Dragon waged war against the woman's offspring, 12:17. The Dragon is standing by the sea at the moment when a blasphemous monster emerges from the deep, commissioned with the Dragon's power, rule and authority. The whole world is filled with awe and wonder, and inevitably ends up worshipping the Dragon. Although the beast's time is limited, it is well able to blaspheme everything God stands for, going out of its way to persecute the woman's offspring (God's people). For the vast majority of humanity, the attraction of the beast is irresistible, making it worthy of worship. The vision comes with a word to the offspring - in the business of living for the gospel, trouble is our bedfellow. The vision concludes by reminding God's people that the essential ingredient in times of trouble is the perseverance of faith.
The kingdom of God is realized through tribulation.
i] Context: See 11:19. Chapters 12:18-13:18 presents in two parts by describing how two beasts set out to wage war on the offspring of the woman, cf., 12:7-17. As such, the chapter explains what results from the pursuit of the woman (the people of God / the remnant messianic community of Israel that bears the promised messianic seed, Christ) by the red dragon (Satan) into the wilderness, and its/his making "war against the rest of her offspring" (the people of God / the Christian community), 12:17. The chapter describes two agents of the red dragon (Satan), the first, the beast from the sea, 12:18-13:10, and the second, the beast from the bog, 13:11-18. In making war on the "offspring", the beasts find that they are restrained by the hand of God - a restrained authority for 42 months, ie., half the perfect number 7 expressing a shortened time for the sake of the elect. Both beasts are counterfeit Christs, mere deceivers like their master the red dragon, and sadly, they do end up deceiving many. Both beasts, an antichrist type, represent the secular city, Babel, Babylon, the first in the glory of it's political power, and the second in the glory of its shibboleths, ideals, and philosophies..
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: The beast from the sea:
The Dragon summons the beast from the sea, 12:18.
A description of the beast, v1-4:
The limit of the beast's power, v5-8:
Blasphemy and slander , v5-6;
Victory over the saints, v7;
A recipient of universal worship, 8.
A word to the wise, v9-10:
The Christian community will inevitably face persecution
Tribulation is where perseverance of faith comes to the fore.
The apocalyptic imagery employed by John here has prompted many wonderful interpretations. Again we are best to restrain our love of mystery and magic and stay with a generalized interpretation. That's not to say that the Roman Emperor at the time doesn't fit the bill, its fits quite well, but then so do many other secular authorities, powers and philosophies - always have, and always will.
The sea is a place of darkness and chaos for a first century Jew. Out of this chaos, the Red Dragon (Satan) draws his first "beast" to set upon the woman's offspring (the Christian community). The beast bears Satan's character; his authority, rule and power over the world (He's got the whole world in his hand! Lk.4:6). John draws on the beasts of Daniel 7 to describe this beast. Like Daniel's beasts, John's beast is animal like, having ten horns, blasphemous, powerful. In Daniel, the beasts represent political powers, "kingdoms", and so it is very likely that John wants us to see this beast as representing the secular city, Babylon - "Satanically-manipulated political power", Richardson.
Some elements are difficult to understand. John's beast has a healed fatal wound, v3. The point is probably that it has been out of the sea / chaos numerous times, put down, but here it is again. And so it will be until the end. Secular powers and authorities come and go; their glory shines for a moment, glorified / worshiped, but then they fall. Of this cycle there is a limit, a shortened time, "forty-two months", three and a half years, half of the perfect number seven, v5. The beast may wage war against God's people, persecute and slander the Christian community, but only for a shortened time. There is a limit to this moment of grace between Christ's ascension and coming / appearing, this moment when the Red Dragon can play out his death rattles, manipulating the authority of the State (a divine institution for good, Rom.13:1-7) for evil purposes, denying the place of the Creator in human life and turning political power against the church, v6-7.
For the Christian community, the reality of this shortened time is that we are safe, but singed. If we are in "the Lamb's book of life" then we are safe and secure in the saviors arms, v8. We get in the book, of course, by persevering in faith, by resting on the Lamb who was slain for us. Yes, persecution may be our lot, even death, v10a, but by persevering in faith we are securely part of God's eternal community, v10b.
Who gives the beast his authority? Smalley runs the line of most commentators when he argues that the beast's "delegated and temporary authority ...... is given by God."; "It was allowed (he was permitted) to fight against God's people and defeat them", TEV. As Boring puts it, "he (John) persists in his claim that this conquest was allowed (edoqh, "given") by God." John is drawing heavily on Daniel 7 to describe the beast and his "waging war on the holy ones", Dan.7:8, 21. He even uses Daniel's passive verbs from chapter 7, of qualities (power, etc.) and directions "given" to the beasts, and of their being "allowed" to continue for a time. John, as with all Biblical authors, accepts the sovereignty of God as a given, but also happily accepts the independence of Satan and his minions, as well as humanity at large, under God.
The scriptures do not undertake a philosophical examination of the contrary nature of human free will and God's sovereign will; both are true and stand together in tension. Of course, given that linear thought is dominant, we tend to focus on one or the other - God is sovereign (Calvinist), or humanity is free (Arminian). Yet, truth is often lateral. This is evidenced in the experience of life. So, for example, in the political sphere "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" can end up as "I'm up, pull the ladder up", or, "never give a sucker an even break." On the other hand, equality, social responsibility, the we are all in this together line, "always give a mate a helping hand", can end up as a dictatorship of the proletariat. "Liberty, equality and fraternity" is the better principle, with liberty and equality standing together in an equally weighted tension, bound by fraternity, respect, love, ....
So, in the Revelation, it is unwise to describe the beast, emerging from the sea in the presence of the Red Dragon, as a divine agent. If it is the agent of anyone, it is the agent of the Red Dragon. The beast, Babylon, the secular city, government, ......, rules by an ultimate authority under God, administering justice for the maintenance of civil society. Yet, the one who "gives" to the beast "to do war" on God's people, is surely the Red Dragon; Satan is the puppeteer behind corrupt governments, not God. It is because of the Red Dragon's attack on the offspring of the woman by his beasts, that his wings are clipped, his time is shortened, v5. So, translations like "it was allowed to make war ......", ESV, etc., are misleading. The NIV approach is much better, "he / it was given power to wage war ...", for the Gk., "to do war against God's people .... was given to it." Who does the giving? Who has the whole world in his hand? Well! Ultimately ......,. but ......
Text - 12:18 / 13:1
The beast from the sea, 12:18-13:10: i] The Dragon summons the beast from the sea, 12:18 / 13:1. The Red Dragon moves from the desert to the seashore to instigate his attack on the offspring of the the woman, the Christian community.
kai "-" - and. Transitional. The conjunction is used here to indicate a step in the narrative.
epi + acc. "[the dragon stood] on" - [it/he stood] on. When John uses this his favorite spacial preposition to express "on, upon" he usually follows up with a genitive, but for some reason he follows up with an accusative here. Standing "on, upon" has to be the intended sense. Given the variant first person estaqhn, "I stand", "then I stood on the sand of the sea-shore", Phillips, may be intended, but it is a likely early correction to the text.
thV qalasshV (a) gen. "[the shore] of the sea" - The genitive is adjectival, probably idiomatic / locative; "the sand / shore-line which is alongside the sea." "The dragon stood on the beach beside the sea", CEV.
ii] A description of the beast from the sea, v1-4: John's description of the beast draws from Job 40-41, and particularly Daniel 7:2-7, 11. This sea monster, the leviathan from the abyss, looks similar to the beast from the abyss, 11:7. He represents corrupted secular power and authority shaped by the influence of the dragon / Satan. For John's day, the Roman Empire certainly aligns well with this vision, but, of course, evil empires come and go, and they all fit the image of the beast from the sea.
anabainon (anabainw) pres. part. "[I saw a beast] coming" - [and i saw a beast] coming up. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object, "beast", of the verb "I saw", standing in a double accusative construction. Here we have "a beast", anarthrous (without an article), which may serve to link it with "the beast" in 11:7.
ek + gen. "out of [the sea]" - Expressing source / origin. John may be alluding to the fact that the Romans invaded Israel from the sea, but he is more than likely drawing on prophetic precedence, as above.
exon (ecw) pres. part. "it had [ten horns]" - having [ten horns]. The participle serves as a further accusative complement of the direct object, "beast", "a beast coming up ..... and having ..." It may also be treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "beast", "which had ten horns and seven heads", but note John's flexible use of ecwn, "having", 1:16. John describes the beast "having" horns, diadems and a blasphemous name.
epi + gen. "on [its horns]" - [and] on [the horns of it ten crowns / diadems]. Spacial, "on, upon." The beast's horns and crowns denote his authority, an authority which Daniel tells us is secular (= "kings").
epi + acc. "on [each head]" - [and] on [the heads of it]. John follows up his favorite spacial preposition with an accusative rather than a genitive for the sense "on, upon." Does he mean something like "around his head" instead of "on"? The image of blasphemy aligns with Daniel 7:8-28.
blasfhmiaV (a) gen. "a blasphemous name" - [names] of blasphemy / abusive speech. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, as NIV. Probably in the terms of claiming deity. For John's time, the Roman emperors, and their officials, would have filled the bill nicely, eg., Vespasian liked the title "Lord and God." Note the variants onoma, "name", and onoma ta, "names". Both variants have equal textual support, but a single name seems likely, which, of course, may be the reason why ta was dropped.
The animal traits of the beast reflect those of Daniel's four beasts, cf., Dan.7. Satan endows the beast with his authority and power, although it is a poor reflection of divine power, authority and kingship.
pardalei (iV ewV) dat. "[resembled] a leopard" - [and the beast which i saw was like] a leopard. The adjective oJmoion, "like", takes a dative complement.
wJV "[feet] like" - [and the feet of it] as. Comparative use of the particle.
arkou (oV) gen. "those of a bear" - the feet of a bear [and the mouth of it as the mouth of a lion]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or partitive, limiting an assumed "feet."
autw/ dat. pro. "[the dragon gave] the beast [his power]" - [and the dragon gave the power of it and the throne of it] to it [and great authority]. Dative of indirect object.
The beast from the sea bears the marks of the ongoing manifestations of corrupted secular power.
ek + gen. "[one] of [the heads]" - [and one] of [the heads of it]. The preposition stands in for a partitive genitive.
wJV "[the beast] seemed [to have a fatal wound]" - as [having been slain into death]. Comparative use of the particle. Rather than just one head being fatally wounded, John tells us in 13:14 that the beast itself had been mortally wounded. Numerous interpretations are offered for this apocalyptic image. The wound may have come about in the heavenly battle with Michael and his angels, but John does not align the beast with the Dragon and his angels. It may be an image of resurrection such that the beast is a pseudo Christ; like the Lamb, it bears a mortal wound, cf., Blount. John may be describing the beast in the terms of a resurrected Nero, cf., Koester, Smalley. There is little doubt that the beast represents political power, and certainly for John, power lay in the hands of the Roman empire and its emperors, but a specific link with Rome is unlikely. This power has been around for a long time, and will continue until the end. Israel had long experienced the destructive power of the rise and fall of kingdoms and such will the the way of things until the parousia of Christ. Under the direction of the Red Dragon, Satan, this beast has had many destructive manifestations; mortally put down, but always coming back for another go. So, m anifestations of the secular city, of Babylon, have appeared over the years. All, to some degree, corrupted by Satan; all to some degree unjust and violent, living by the sword and dying by the sword. And so it will be until the end.
tou qanatou (oV) gen. "[the] fatal [wound had been healed]" - [and the wound] of the death [of it was healed]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, as NIV; "the wound which caused its death was healed."
opisw + gen. "[was filled with wonder and] followed [the beast]" - [and all the earth marveled, wondered] after [the beast]. The preposition is used to express the idea of following ofter someone as a disciple, although the Greek has "marveled after the beast." We seem to have a conflation of two ideas which translators separate in different ways. The RSV treats "marveled" adverbially and this seems the best approach; "the whole earth followed the beast with wonder", or NRSV, "in amazement the whole earth followed the beast." Note the passive verb eqaumasqh is treated as a medial passive, so "marveled". "The whole world was agog, gaping at the beast", Peterson.
tw/ drakonti (wn onoV) dat. "[people worshiped] the dragon" - [and they worshiped] the dragon. Dative of direct object after the verb "to do obeisance to." John's words here reflect Paul's warning to the Corinthians that their participation in idolatrous activities, festivals and feasts, was linking them with the demonic forces behind the idols, even though the idols are mere wood, or stone, etc. Satan is behind the beast, and it is the presence of Satanic power that makes the beast so attractive.
oJti "because" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the people worshipped the dragon; "they worshipped the dragon for he had assigned authority to the beast", Barclay.
tw/ qhriw/ (on) "to the beast" - [he gave the authority] to the beast. Dative of indirect object.
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "and asked" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "worshiped", "worshiped .... and said", as NIV. It could also be classified as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the worship, "worshiped .... saying", ESV. See legwn 1:17 for John's flexible use of this participle when introducing speech in a vision.
tw/ qhriw/ (on) "[who is like] the beast?" - The adjective oJmoiV, "like", takes a dative complement. John is somewhat sarcastic when he draws on the OT phrase "O Lord, who is like you" to express the adoration of the godless toward the horrible attraction of the beast, cf., Ps.113:5.
polemhsai (polemew) aor. inf. "[who can] wage war]" - [who is able] to wage war. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "to be able."
met (meta) + gen. "against [it]" - with [it]. The preposition expresses accompaniment / association - to wage war with an enemy. "'The beast', they said, 'is unique and irresistible", Barclay.
ii] The limit of the beast's power, v5-8. The secular city / Babylon / corrupted secular power, may well pontificate on all matters, exercise authority over every tribe and people, slander the Creator and persecute his children, but its time is short and power limited.
autw/ dat. pro. "the beast" - [and was given] to it. Dative of indirect object. Who is the agent of the passive verb "was given"? Smalley, so also Koester, Osborne, .... thinks it is a divine passive such that the beast gains his authority initially from the Dragon, but ultimately from God, although limited in its scope (ie., the point of the forty-two months). Surely this would only be the case if the Dragon was enacting God's will in either chastisement of judgment.
laloun (lalew) pres. part. "to utter [proud words]" - [a mouth] saying [great things and blasphemies]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "mouth". The beast is like Daniel's little horn "uttering bombast", Dan.7:8.
kai "and [blasphemies]" - Possibly epexegetic here serving to specify the "proud words", "namely blasphemous words", or even ascensive, "even blasphemies."
poihsai (poiew) aor. inf. "to exercise [its authority]" - [and was given to it authority] to do. The infinitive is epexegetic specifying the "authority", namely, "to do Satan's work for forty-two months." The direct object of the infinitive is assumed. "And was granted permission to continue for forty-two months", REB.
mhnaV tesserakonta duo "for forty-two months" - Accusative of time, duration. Again John, drawing on Daniel's days of oppression, Dan.7:25, 12:7, the three and a half years, the half of the perfect number seven, indicates a shortening of time for the beast's (the Antichrist??) reign on earth.
eiV + acc. "to [blaspheme God]" - [and it opened the mouth of it] to [utter blasphemies toward god]. Here the preposition is expressing purpose with an assumed verb of speech, "in order to utter blasphemies toward God." Again the spacial preposition proV, "toward", is best translated "against". "It yelled blasphemies against God", Peterson.
blasfhmhsai (blasfhmew) aor. inf. "to slander [his name]" - and to blaspheme [the name of him and the tabernacle of him]. Aune argues that the infinitive "is used epexegetically in order to specify precisely how the beast blasphemed God: 'that is, to blaspheme his name and dwelling.'" To slander "the name" is the same as slandering the person.
touV ... skhnountaV (skhnow) pres. part. "those who live [in heaven]" - [and] the ones dwelling [in heaven]. The participle serves as a substantive. The conjunction kai, "and", is usually viewed as an addition to aid the grammar. The absence of kai indicates that the phrase, "those dwelling in heaven", stands in apposition to "his (God's) dwelling place", indicating that slandering the "place" is not so much the issue, rather, slandering those who dwell in it - "angelic beings and the redeemed", Koester, and of course, God himself.
edoqh (didwmi) aor. pass. "it was given power" - [to do war with the saints and to conquer them] was given [to it, him]. This verb is usually treated as a divine / theological passive; "it was allowed to make war on the saints", ESV. The less definitive translation proposed by the NIV is to be preferred. See interpretation above. The second clause also uses edoqh for the main verb; "authority over every tribe and people and language and nation was given it" - the "it", autw/, serves as a dative of indirect object.
poihsai (poiew) aor. inf. "to wage [war]" - to do [war]. This infinitive, as with "to conquer", serves as a substantive, subject of the verb "was given."
autw/ dat. pro. "-" - to it, him. Dative of indirect object.
epi + acc. "[it was given authority] over [every tribe]" - [and authority] over [every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to it]. Spacial preposition, here with the accusative, probably expressing "over", particularly with exousia, "authority; "authority over ..."
iv] The beast is a recipient of universal worship, v8. The attraction of the beast is such that (other than those firmly persevering in faith and thus found enrolled in the book of life) all people will find themselves fawning at its feet. It is very easy to do obeisance to the secular city, to glory in it, center our whole life on it, and by so doing replace God with Babylon. In the first century, John would have experienced first-hand the imperial cult and its worship of the Emperor.
oiJ katoikounteV (katoikew) pres. part. "[all] the inhabitants [of the earth will worship the beast]" - [and all] the ones dwelling [upon the earth will worship it, him]. The participle serves as a substantive, standing as the subject of the verb "will worship." It is possible to treat the adjective panteV, "all", as a substantive, "everyone", in which case the participle would be adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone", "everyone who dwells on the earth." "The whole population of the world will worship it", Barclay.
ou| gen. pro. "all whose [names]" - of whom [the name has not be written]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, serving to introduce a relative clause limiting "the ones dwelling" / "everyone"; "whose names are not recorded in the Book of Life of the Lamb", Berkeley.
thV zwhV (h) gen. "[the Lamb's book] of life" - [in the book] of life. The genitive is adjectival, obviously descriptive, attributive, "life book", but probably more an idiomatic description of the "book, roll", a role which is made up of those who will live in eternity / those who are alive to God / those who will be resurrected and favorably judged at the end of the age. The genitive "Lamb" is also adjectival, probably best classified as possessive, the roll belongs to the Lamb, although it may also carry an idiomatic sense, "the roll which the Lamb has produced", etc.
tou esfagmenou (sfazw) gen. perf. mid./pas. part. "the Lamb who was slain" - The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Lamb".
apo + gen. "from" - Temporal use of the preposition; "from that time when the world was created." Mathewson nicely summarizes the issue raised by this temporal clause, p.174/5. The phrase would normally modify its closest antecedent, namely "having been slain [from the foundation of the world]", as NIV. We are best to follow Koester, Swete, Smalley, Aune and Beale, (contra Osborne, Reddish) who argue that it modifies "has not been written", as in 17:8; "everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain", ESV
kosmou (oV) gen. "[the creation] of the world" - [foundation] of world. The genitive is usually classified as verbal, objective, "founding / creation of the world." Koester argues that the existence of the roll before the creation of the world shows it to be a work of God's sovereign grace, rather than a reward for righteous living, but the roll may simply reflect divine foreknowledge. None-the-less, the apostle Paul would remind us that our inclusion in the book of life has nothing to do with righteous living, and has everything to do with grace through faith. Our deeds, good and bad, are recorded in the books of deeds, and in the day they are opened, the tears of shame will flow, but if our name is in the book of life, by grace through faith, that shame will turn to joy, cf., 20:12-15.
v] A word to the wise, v9-10. In this life, those whose names are inscribed in the Lamb's book of life can expect two possible consequences of their living among the dead (those not inscribed in the book of life), namely, persecution (captivity) and sword (martyrdom). It is in these tribulations that the perseverance of faith is most effective. John draws his language from Jeremiah 15:2 and 43:11 (Note that Jeremiah is referring to the consequences of Israel's sins, not the consequences of living under the hand of the beast).
ei + ind. "Whoever [has ears]" - if, as is the case, [anyone has an ear] then [let him hear]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true. "If a person can hear, then let them take note of this message."
ei + ind. "if [anyone is to go into captivity]" - if, as is the case, [a certain person is to go / is taken into captivity] then [into captivity he goes]. A 1st. class conditional clause, as above; so also "if anyone is to be killed ......"
eiV + acc. "into [captivity]" - Mathewson suggests goal is intended here, "destined for"; "if anyone is destined for captivity, then into captivity they will go."
apoktanqhnai (apoktainw) aor. pas. inf. "is to be killed" - [if, as is the case, anyone is] to be killed [then he is to be killed]. The infinitive serves as a substantive, direct object of an assumed verb to-be.
en + dat. "with [the sword]" - Here the preposition is instrumental, expressing means; "by a sword."
apoktanqhnai (apoktainw) aor. inf. "with the sword they will be killed" - to be killed. The function of the two infinitives, "to be killed", is illusive and has prompted numerous textual variants, translations and interpretations. The context is persecution, John's point being what will be will be, rather than retribution those who live by the sword die by the sword (variants make this point, obviously reflecting Matt.26:52, a line supported by Mounce, Barclay, Boring..). Smalley argues that this second infinitive serves as an imperative, "you must be killed"; so Osborne, who puts weight on divine sovereignty, "if it is God's will that .... then by the sword they must be killed"; Zerwick opts for a future imperatival infinitive; Aune notes the varient dei, "it is necessary", and argues that the infinitive probably serves as the subject of this assumed impersonal verb. Given the verb uJpagei, "he goes", in the first line of the saying, something similar is surely intended in the second, eg., "by the sword he is to be killed." If this is the case then this second infinitive is also serving as the object of an assumed verb to-be, so Charles: "if any man is to be slain with the sword, he is to be slain with the sword." The Christian community will inevitably face persecution and this is where the endurance of faith will come to the fore.
wJde adv. "this calls for [patient endurance and faithfulness]" - here [is the endurance and the faith]. This adverb serves as a substantive, subject of the verb to-be, "in this case, moreover"; "herein is the endurance", Zerwick. So wJde introduces a clause which serves to round up / encapsulate the sense of the previous statement/s, much like a demonstrative pronoun; "this is where the gallantry and loyalty of God's dedicated people must be displayed", Barclay. Translators / interpreters tend to draw out an imperatival sense (we do love the law!!!), so Barclay's "must", as ESV, and the NIV, REB, "this calls for", rather than "is". An indicative is not an imperative so what we have is a statement of fact, not a command; "in this way the saints exercise their endurance and their faith", Berkeley. The two nouns, "perseverance" and "faith", linked by kai, "and", probably serve as a hendiadys where the two nouns form a single idea, namely, "perseverance of faith", ie., the business of holding onto Jesus through thick and thin. It is in persecution where persevering in faith comes to the fore.
twn aJgiwn (oV) gen. "on the part of God's people" - of the saints. The NIV treats the genitive as verbal, subjective. Adjectival, possessive, may be better, "the endurance and faith which belongs to / is characteristic of the saints."