The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. Whoever has ears, let them hear. “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.” This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people. – Revelation 13:1-10
The dragon, aka Satan, is spreading mishap and mayhem in today’s passage. This time he has help from a “beast” with “ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.” This “beast” is clearly outside of our common experience and the author can only compare it to creatures here on earth like a leopard, a bear, or a lion. This may be because the appearance of this beast was beyond the ability of the author to describe in earthly terms. My sense is that this “beast” is in fact a spiritual entity, or entities, that may inhabit and earthly vessel, but their spiritual form is on some level indescribable.
This is born out by the next part of the passage when one of the beast’s heads is described as having “had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast.” Now it is possible that the “beast” is otherworldly in appearance and the people follow it anyway, but the sense I get is that the outer appearance of this “beast” is human and looks like any other person except for this mysterious head wound that has been healed. The spiritual appearance of this beast is what is unlike other humans, but that is only visible to those with spiritual eyes to see this beast’s true form. This beast was apparently a gifted orator, he was given proud words and blasphemed against God for 42 months. I am not sure why the time is specific as it was in yesterday’s passage about spiritual skirmishes.
The beast was also apparently given great power over earthly events, “It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation”. This is interesting and also disturbing. From an earthly perspective this beast is given the ability to conquer God’s holy people. This means to me that the earthly vessels in which our souls reside will be subject to some of the mayhem that the beast is engaging in on earth. There will be impacts to our secular existence, but that need not impact our eternal souls. It sounds like it will be difficult to avoid the reign of this terrestrial tyrant “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast”.
Those that have prepared their metaphysical muscles, and remain faithful amidst this spiritual squall, will be fine, but “all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” will not be so fortunate. The tricky part of this passage comes near the end when it says “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.” I take this to mean that God’s people will be subject to persecution and even death at this time. Their souls are secure but from on earthly perspective it will look like they are lost and God has forgotten them. Just like it probably appeared to the followers of Jesus He was crucified, but only those followers who stopped seeking failed to find Jesus after He was crucified and resurrected.
This sounds like a disheartening and discouraging time for God followers. It will seem from an earthly perspective that Satan has won this battle. The author acknowledges that this will be hard and “calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.” There will be many that want to give up and transfer their allegiance to “the beast”. I am sure He will be only to happy to accept it and perhaps even provide earthly rewards for those that denounce the Lamb. It will take great spiritual maturity and muscles gained through hard seeking to survive this ontological onslaught.
So what is the take home message from this tale of trials and testing? We had better pay attention to the strength of our souls rather than focus on the health and comfort of our bodies. As I reflected a few days ago, we do not have a soul, we are a soul, we have a body. Better to tend to our soul than our body.
Prayer: God help us to attend to the strength of our souls just as often as we care for comfort of our bodies.